The Ladies Rewrite the Rules by Suzanne Allain


The Ladies Rewrite the Rules is a “proper,” traditional Regency novel that reminds me of something I might have read years ago from a category line. The heat level stops at smooching and we don’t get a ton of angst or conflict. If you’re looking for a more modern voice (like Sarah MacLean vs Georgette Heyer) this isn’t the book for you.

Maxwell Dean is a second son who publishes a booklet identifying wealthy widows and spinsters to help other second/third/fourth sons court women of means. He doesn’t intend for this to be predatory; he genuinely thinks he’s making matters more transparent for everyone, so he’s surprised when Diana Boyle shows up on his doorstep to chew him out over it.

Since the publication of his booklet, Diana has had suitors show up at her door now that they know she’s a rich widow. Diana married a much older man she didn’t love and has no intention of marrying again. She invites the other women listed in the booklet to a meeting to make them aware that fortune hunters might be calling on them, and a few of them decide to flip the situation to their advantage. They’ll enjoy the attention of the men calling on them with no intention of marrying, similar to how young women are expected to impress and attract men of the ton who offer no guarantee of marriage in return.

Diana meets a rich spinster named Regina (her reputation was sullied so she never married) and the two of them enjoy the sights of London while entertaining the attentions of suitors who found them through the booklet.

The conflict over the booklet and how mercenary it is pretty much vanishes immediately, leaving the novel with very little tension. Max and some of the suitors who called on Diana essentially form a friend group with her, Regina, and some of the other ladies and go on group dates and to balls. Any hard feelings are forgotten almost instantly. The vast majority of this book is spent dating, basically.

Eventually Max and Diana develop feelings for each other, and the only real obstacle they face is the fact that she said she didn’t want to get married again. We also don’t get a lot of Max’s POV, and as a result he doesn’t really grow or change at all through the book. He feels bad about publishing the booklet, but he felt bad about it in chapter two.

I did enjoy Regina and Diana’s blooming friendship, and how they each helped each other get out and enjoy society. Female friendship though wasn’t enough to save the novel. The lack of character growth and conflict made this one a slog for me; I kept putting the book down and then picking it back up hoping for something to happen. I struggled with the fact that there was potential for a lot of tension between the two main characters–he publishes a list that commodified her–but all of that dissolved into nothing. It’s one thing to have a low conflict book, but another to present the reader with a problem and then more or less just forget it so the characters can date.  I can say someone who is looking for a very low conflict Regency in the classic style might enjoy it for nostalgic reasons, but overall The Ladies Rewrite the Rules was a miss for me.



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