REVIEW: The Peculiar Folly of Long Legged Meg by Jayne Fresina
Persephone “Persey” Foyle, the Dowager Marchioness of Holbrooke, leads a happy, busy existence, tending her garden, overseeing her charitable missions, feuding with her stepson’s wife, and vetting potential suitors for her stepdaughter. As far as this lively widow is concerned, her life lacks nothing.
But when a young, famously-talented designer is hired to “improve” the grounds of Holbrooke estate—a task she has managed for eight years—Persey’s comfortable world is threatened. It doesn’t help that he’s hired by her nemesis, the new marchioness, or that his talents are all the mode among England’s Georgian aristocracy. He has no chance of impressing Persey. No chance at all.
Josias Radcliffe has worked hard for his success, and although he’s been warned about the dowager, no “meddlesome old crone” will stand in the way of his latest triumph. Until he runs into a pretty maid on his first day and talks her into showing him through the Holbrooke maze. Soon his course is altered, his plans changed forever.
Because the dowager has secrets and Joss is the one person who could expose her as a fraud. He knew her when she was Long-Legged Meg—a scullery maid who spun tall tales, and, so it is rumored, used her knowledge of herbs and plants to dispatch her enemies. Folk say she used those long legs to carry her away from the gallows.
Have they carried her far enough?
Dear Ms Fresina,
After finishing “Slowly Fell,” I went on a bit of a buying spree of your books. I liked the blurb for this one which promised upward social mobility, the Georgian era, and some dark, past secrets. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book but still liked it overall.
As an abandoned infant, Meg is lucky to even get a first name – shortened though it is – much less a last name. Her height gives her the other appellation she carries. With no one to care for her or look out for her, she’s done for herself since being sent out as a servant at age nine. Unknown by the various people who’ve (over)worked her and only fed her scraps of food, Meg has grasped what learning she could including the (overheard) injunction to come up with a dream and then work towards it.
After years of abuse and some dark whispers trailing behind her, Meg finally makes her escape with someone who helps her on her next stage of self-improvement. A few lucky breaks (and some hard work) later, she finally had what she wanted – a place, a position, and a garden. Now someone appears to be ready to take some of that away. Can Meg stop the destruction of her beloved gardens by someone who knows about her past?
In Meg’s early years, a clear picture of just how awful a servant’s life could be is presented. She is worked all day, given enough cloth to make one dress a year (to help her be thrifty, she’s told, as if she needs lessons in that), and expected to be grateful. But Meg’s got an inner well of strength and she’s not going to accept this as her lot in life. I enjoyed watching Meg make lemonade from the dregs she grabs. What is told about her is what she herself knows but later on, we discover that she doesn’t know everything. If anyone has misgivings about cheering for her based on what she did to survive, just keep that in mind. Which is all I’ll say.
Seeing her as she is now, though, gives a good idea of her character. She has lifted herself up and then sought to help others both as a means of penance for what she thinks she’s done and because she wants to help people as she wasn’t helped when she had no agency or power. She fights passionately for causes and people she believes in and loves. And she won’t let her beloved gardens be ruined without a fight.
Too bad for her that the man in charge of the garden changes gets under her skin as much as she gets under his. And this is where the book slows down for me. Joss Radcliffe and Persey (her new and improved name is Persephone) strike sparks from the get-go and think about each other a lot when they’re not verbally sparring and getting each other hot and bothered. The road to them finally quenching all that hot and bothered-ness is long and I guess watching them circled around each other (mentally and physically) is supposed to ratchet up the sexual tension. It did a little but after a while, I just read scenes and thought that I’d already read them before as little happened in many of them.
I do like Joss as a hero. He’s also hard working has had to earn everything he’s got to go along with his natural talent with gardening and garden designing. He’s honest to a fault and when he tells Persey that he immediately knows that she is the woman he’s been waiting for his entire life, I believe it. There is one issue I ended up having with this.
Spoiler (Spoiler): Show
There are also lots of plot threads that get quickly wrapped up at the end. It’s not that I have a problem with what happens so much as everything goes whooosh and it’s fixed. Still is a cute romance to watch play out and there aren’t any evil villains to make life difficult along the way. B-