Bridgerton meets Gossip Girl with a dash of Jane Austen, in Reputation, a Regency-era historical romantic comedy with a deliciously feminist twist, from a hilarious new British voice, Lex Croucher.
Abandoned by her parents, bookish and sheltered Georgiana Ellers is spending the summer with her stodgy aunt and uncle at their home in the English countryside. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who delights Georgiana with her disregard for so-called “polite society.”
Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana quickly falls in with Frances and her wealthy, wild, and deeply improper friends, who introduce her to the upper echelons of Regency aristocracy, and a world of drunken debauchery, frivolous spending, and mysterious young men. One, in particular, stands out from the rest: Thomas Hawksley, who has a tendency to cross paths with Georgiana in her most embarrassing moments. Sparks fly, but Thomas seems unimpressed with the company she is keeping. And soon, Georgiana begins to wonder whether she’ll ever feel like she fits in––or if the price of entry into Frances’s gilded world will ultimately be higher than she is willing to pay.
Set against a backdrop of lavish parties, handsome men on horseback––and in a time when one’s reputation was everything––this edgy, hilarious romantic comedy explores sex, consent, belonging, and status through the eyes of an unforgettable heroine that Austen herself would have cheered for.
The Regency years are one of my favorite eras, so I was very excited about the opportunity to dive into this new book. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and I wondered if whether this book was supposed to be YA, given the age of the characters and the comparisons to Mean Girls and Gossip Girl. The answer to this question, Dear Reader, is no, but this reviewer feels that the book holds immense appeal to both adult readers as well as YA ones.
I’ve read a few good novels lately, but this is the one I had the most fun reading. Imagine Stefon from SNL saying, “This book has EVERYTHING—coming of age, wild parties, and the true meaning of friendship!
Seriously though, this is simply a delight from start to finish. The plot summary says it all: Georgiana falls in with a crowd of Bright Young Things, who flaunt their disdain for the rules and structure of the upper class whilst also consuming copious amounts of drugs and alcohol.
The prose just sparkles with wry descriptions and asides. Georgiana is an intrepid narrator who is easy to like, even when she doesn’t always do the Right Thing. Readers of all ages can emphasize with the intoxicating desire to want to fit in and the price one often pays to reach that upper echelon. However, as I alluded in a previous paragraph, true friendship is never superficial, but one must often endure a great deal of turmoil before learning who one’s true friends are.
There is a romance element, but it’s not the focal point. It’s more like a romcom, and I mean that in the best way. There’s much more of an emphasis on Georgiana’s relationship with her new friends and adjustment (or lack thereof) to her new fast-paced lifestyle. But the romance is sweet and there’s a whole spectrum of feelings starting with, “You’re tolerable, I suppose” and progressing to “I must tell your how ardently I admire you” and it’s just wonderful.
I would absolutely recommend Reputation. This book had me hooked from start to finish. I know I’m going to be purchasing the Audible, and probably the paperback as well. I’m going to recommend it to all my histrom friends as well as anyone else who will listen. I’m going to be like [insert annoying meme] for at least a month about this book. Everyone’s getting copies for their birthday. Seriously, 12/10 would definitely recommend.
I received a digital ARC of this book from St. Martin’s Press/NetGalley.