After finishing The Diary of an Accidental Wallflower, I felt the need to dive into its sequel, The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior, which is about 10x better than its predecessor. Gone were all of the problems I had with the first book, but unfortunately, they were replaced by a new set of them.
Lucy Westmore was finally getting her London season, something she absolutely did not want to have. She hated the idea of parading herself around for men who would only want her for her dowry. She’d much rather spend her time helping orphans or writing to prisoners. Just as the season was to start, she gets a mysterious package from her recently deceased Aunt E. Inside, four volumes of Aunt E’s diary and the key to her cottage in Lizard Bay.
Thomas, the Marquess of Branston, thought he was buying Miss E’s small cottage in Cornwall and had even started making the necessary repairs when he found out that the sale hadn’t quite been legal. He needed that cottage, but one meeting with Lucy and he knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
I’m honestly torn between liking Lucy and wanting to slap her silly for her actions in the first half of the book. For much of the first half, she appeared to be throwing the mother of all temper tantrums, her fists flailing through the air as she screamed, “I’m of age,” over and over again. I get why she was upset–her father had tried to sell her aunt’s cottage right out from under her, but the way she went about letting everyone know she disapproved annoyed the hell out of me. If it wasn’t for McQuiston’s stellar writing, I wouldn’t have made it through the first few chapters.
One of the things that confused me about this book was the fact that Lucy’s family seemed almost completely different from the way they were portrayed in the first book and it made me wonder if Lucy was not as liked as her sister, Clare, had been. For instance, Lord Cardwell, Lucy’s father, was ridiculously unreasonable in this book, but in The Diary of an Accidental Wallflower all that mattered to him was Clare’s happiness and whether Daniel would make her happy despite the difference in their classes. Here, he acted like a complete asshole, belittling Lucy’s hobbies and acting as if his daughter was too stupid to make her own decisions.
Then, there was Lydia, Lucy’s half sister, who was welcomed into the family at the end of Wallflower, even though she was her father’s daughter with his mistress. She was only in the last few scenes of Wallflower, but I got the impression that Lydia was a strong, brave young woman–she approached her father after finding out about him when most people wouldn’t have dared do the same in fear of being thrown out on their asses. In Scandalous Behavior, she has become this meek-minded miss, who would rather acquiesce than speak her own mind. Somehow, in the four years since the end of the first book, Lydia lost her spine.
The thing that I really enjoyed was reading about the assorted people of Lizard Bay and how they all loved Lucy’s aunt. While her whole family thought of her as a stain on their reputation at best and crazy at worst, the people of Lizard Bay respected her and asked her to be a part of their lives. The best parts of the book were the ones about or written by Miss E (the titular guide was made up of Miss E’s diaries, which chronicled her life from the time she left London until the day she died). This is where Ms. McQuiston shined. I loved every single person in the town of Lizard Bay. They were basically the Victorian version of Stars Hollow, minus Lorelai and Rory, unfortunately–although in a way Miss E did have a bit in common with Lorelai (fleeing from her privileged world for a small town full of people, who would become her family).
The one thing I most wish was different was that Miss E never got her happy ending. It was obvious that she’d been in love with someone from pretty much the first day she stepped foot into town and that that person returned her feelings, but alas it was not to be. In effect, the guide was more a blueprint of what not to do. The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” could have been etched onto the cover of Miss E’s diaries. That would definitely have helped Lucy decide what to do when it came to her feelings for Thomas.