If only Jane Austen were alive today, how happy millions of readers would be. Then again, maybe not. It’s not just her style, but her world that many readers long for: a world when life at least seemed simpler, when codes of behavior were clear and universal, when people actually learned from experience, when wit (but never vulgarity) was valued. In “A Little Folly,” Jude Morgan does a pretty fine job of bringing that world back.
With the death of their despotic father, Sir Clement Cantrell, Louisa and Valentine discover freedom, first dipping in a tentative toe, then plunging into life in Regency London. Their restrictive upbringing leaves them vulnerable to rakes and scoundrels; the fun comes from watching the two innocents learn judgment as they negotiate the temptations of London society. The acerbic narrator keeps us entertained, too, with sly observations like this one: “The minute attention he had given to his hair and clothes before coming into dinner, and his surreptitious and doomed attempt to see the back of his head in the pier-glass, suggested that his mind was not as developed as his figure.” “A Little Folly” would be an excellent choice for a late winter’s Sunday afternoon, cat purring on your lap, dog sleeping by the fire, mug of cocoa steaming in your hand.