This written version is essentially a transcript of my video review of the same book, which you can see here if you’re not the type to like to read (but note that if you don’t want to read a review, why would you read an entire novel?)
Please note that both the review and the video DOES contain spoilers, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I received this book from a friend and was initially excited to read it, as many good authors tend to put “research” into their books and try to experience a bit of what their protagonist experiences – I was hoping that t this book would offer another viewpoint into the corseted lifestyle, another form of insight. But then I read the blurb on the cover of the book: “He was so handsome, she could barely breathe… or maybe it was just the corset.”
Hoo, boy. Now, I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so maybe I should read further and see if maybe that ignorant, prejudiced comment was either slapped on their by the marketing agent, or if the author had deliberately written that to pique the curiosity of prospective readers and then gently guide them into opening their minds to a world where a corseted lifestyle would maybe not be all that insane.
The book is intended to be a diary or memoir written by the protagonist, Tessa, who is a slightly overweight woman with beautiful long brown hair. She is American, approaching middle-age and is a recent widow, and since the passing of her husband she has been drowning in his old hospital bills and basically she’s just existing day to day, not really living.
One day she gets the call from one of her friends living an apparently glamourous life in England, explaining that there is this pending reality TV program, they’re in a rut: one of the main girls had dropped out of the show and they need an emergency backup – would Tessa fly over to England the next day? The name of the TV programme is “A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke”, and if she agrees to starring in this reality show, she will act as duchess on a gorgeous Victorian estate for a full month and will be paid $10,000 at the end of the term.
Since Tessa has nothing to lose, she says yes. They fly her over and she meets Max who is the dapper English architect who is to play as the Duke, and apparently he’s a total bishonen (as per the usual, he becomes the main love interest). Tessa’s excited that she gets to act as his wife for a month.
Once the filming of the show actually begins, there are a few recurring themes:
- Tessa realizes that living as a Victorian Duchess is not the luxury vacation she thought it would be, as she has to run the household quite tightly– nothing is quite as easy as it initially seems.
- There are some half-decent descriptions of the amazing outfits she gets to wear, but mostly it’s just half-complaints about how uncomfortable her corset is and HOW SHE CAN NEVER BREATHE. Despite the complaints, she does manage to achieve quite a lot in her corset, like running, horseback riding, and eating. Lots of eating.
- Tessa doesn’t seem to have very good control over her bodily functions. This book contains vomiting, flatulence, blood – I spent the first half of the book just being embarrassed for her. And she apparently doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut. Sometimes I was impressed by how blunt she was, but sometimes she came off as just obnoxious. That said, there were a ton of obnoxious people in this book.
- Tessa is extremely self-conscious about being chubby. I’m not really sure how to feel about her constant mentioning of her insecurities regarding weight and she’s constantly comparing herself to others – it comes up a lot. I realize that this is a diary and on one hand it’s relatable because I’m certainly not exactly an athlete, but on the other hand, I’m typically looking for a heroine to rise above her physical barriers.
- Max has a bratty daughter who is apparently 12 in the book, but every time I read a scene with her, I keep thinking she’s 5 or 6 gauging by her behaviour. I couldn’t stand that kid.
- The more interesting parts of the book revolved around the drama among the servants of the household. Some of the crazy shenanigans that went down among the working class involved some of them threatening to walk off the job, impending kitchen fires, a shooting, clairvoyants and raining fish, and much more!
- Tessa and Max are both headstrong, and they have this tug-of-war power struggle and they have lots of arguments in between lots more smut. They don’t seem to have very much in common at all, apart from both having previous marriages and a mutual physical attraction. They jump eachother’s bones almost immediately and they’re essentially using one another physically, but I guess that’s some people’s cup of tea – books like these fulfill those kinds of fantasies without getting invested into a messy relationship yourself. I just personally find that sort of thing unfulfilling.
Suffice it to say, Tessa survived the month she was there, and she left the estate uncorseted. Despite the title and the blurb on the back of the book, there’s relatively little about the corseted lifestyle in here, and I wouldn’t exactly call this a literary masterpiece but that’s okay, it was a quick fun read and I laughed out loud in a few places.
As I was reading this, I kept thinking to myself that it could probably translate well into a short comedy flick, sort of in the style of Bridget Jones Diaries.
Have any of you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!