Birds of a Feather

Posted on November 10, 2012 by .

Joanna Patterson and and Lord Sedgewick Wylie are as different as can be. The former is a clumsy, wool-gathering, bespectacled vicar’s daughter with a tendency to stammer when she’s flustered. Sedge is the pinnacle of fashion, and he can make or break a person’s reputation with a sharp word and a critical glace through his quizzing glass. All Joanna wants is to successfully find a suitable husband for her charge, Harriet. If only she could stop colliding with Sedge–literally–and navigate London society without making a complete cake of herself . . .

Sedge is growing weary of his role as pattern-card for the young men who imitate him. Though he tries to use his power for good–elevating worthy but plain girls to fashion, guiding foolish young men from excess, and reprimanding those who cross the line into cruelty–he’s ready to pass the torch to a younger man.

No, what Sedge wants is a wife he can love to whom he will be faithful. He grew up in an toxic home and knows that his only hope for a happy family is building his own, so he must choose wisely. Thus, Sedge’s list of requirements is extensive. Since he’s in his early thirties, he wants an older woman, not a schoolroom miss. Because of his status in society, she must be an excellent and polished hostess. Impeccable breeding is necessary, of course.

Most of all, his bride must be intelligent, because behind Sedge’s facade as a fribble, he has a lively mind and scholarly interests. So why does a dowdy, stuttering, apparently lack-witted companion he keeps running into haunt his dreams? Is it because of the tempting body under her frumpy gowns, or the fact that Sedge is convinced she’s a conniving fortune-hunter out to entrap his older brother? He is sure of one thing: he must save Reggie from disaster.

Joanna, a twenty-eight year old spinster, detests the arrogant, top-lofty Lord Sedgewick. The man examines everyone from head to toe with his ever-present quizzing-glass, is followed by a gaggle of sycophantic young cubs, and delivers devastating put-downs to seemingly-innocent young people. Presumptuous, judgmental man! Now, he wants to separate her from her only friend and ally, Reggie, who is helping her screen Harriet’s suitors.

When Sedge and Joanna are found in a compromising situation, marriage seems the only option–at least to Sedge. He doesn’t bother to ask Joanna’s opinion. Moreover, he is furious: how can he shackle himself to a totally inappropriate woman who seems to be in love with his brother?

Boy, do the sparks fly in Birds of a Feather. Lord Sedgewick shines as a mature, thoughtful, heroic figure whose actions are deeply misunderstood by Joanna. However, he does possess some of the flaws she so relentlessly accuses him of–a fact he is not ready to admit.

As for Joanna, she’s no fool. She’s just out of place in the city. Her mind is sharp, her judgement is good, and she has a caring heart. Even Reggie recognizes that she and Sedge are the perfect couple–but neither of the protagonists can overcome their prejudice enough to see it.  They must abandon their initial impressions, for sparks fly whether they are bantering or bickering.

Perhaps one of my favorite moments in the book comes when Sedge asks if Joanna really must wear her spectacles all the time. His expression when she retorts that not everyone is blessed with perfect vision makes Joanna realize that Sedge’s constant use of his quizzing-glass may actually be to cover up his own near-sightedness. This delicate, detail-oriented development of the protagonists’ understanding of each other makes Birds of a Feather shine.

It also creates chemistry. Although Birds of a Feather is not explicit, the crackle between Sedge and Joanna makes Allison Lane’s book, well, hot.

Birds of a Feather is a sequel to an earlier Lane novel, A Bird in Hand. Unlike other sequels I’ve read, this one stands on its own. Perhaps the earlier development of Sedge’s world helped Lane create more nuanced characters, for Birds of a Feather is filled with interesting characters–some of whom appear in only one scene, yet leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Lane’s writing is concise, sharp, and witty, and I highly recommended this book. I wish that I had the prequel in my “to review” collection!

My ratings:

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