Cat Vernon is being dragged to London with her mother for the summer, so she starts to blog to document her misery. When Cat’s developing addiction to English chocolate bars and tabloid magazines threaten to take over her summer, her mother gives her the diary of Katherine Percival, a young girl in 1815 London. Cat is skeptical, but soon finds herself drawn into Katherine’s world – an interest that heightens when she meets William Percival, Katherine’s very cute ancestor. While Katherine writes of balls and dances, Cat just might be finding love herself.
Books like Melissa Jensen’s Falling in Love with English Boys were written for me and my Anglophile-living heart. It’s a funny, lighthearted and thoroughly enjoyable story with two narrators to root for. First-person diary (or, in Cat’s case, blog) narration doesn’t always work. Here, Jensen has written two first-person narrators with distinct voices and personalities. This dueling narration does take a little while to get used to – it can be confusing and frustrating at first. It is jarring to jump from Cat’s hybrid American/British 21st century slang to Katherine’s proper 19th century English. But as the similarities between Cat and Katherine come to light and as their stories intertwine, the back-and-forth starts to work really well. Just when you want more of Cat’s blog, Jensen switches over to Katherine’s diary, compelling you to keep reading.
Cat and Katherine appear quite different at first, but are actually very similar. Both start out self-centered and highly observant, with a penchant for making catty and even selfish remarks about the people around them. But as they both experience and learn more during the course of the book, they grow and change. I loved Cat’s snarky wit and her unexpected adventures, whether she was making friends with the Iraqi newsstand owner and his daughter or accidentally falling into a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy. Her adoption of British slang, her clever puns and her constant mental head-case worries could have been annoying, but I found them funny and adorable. Her offbeat humor was responsible for more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, including this one:
“I had a great-great-grandsomething at Waterloo. Well, we all did, didn’t we?” The aristo inside joke. She laughs up at Will.
No, actually, I want to say, we didn’t. We had great-great-grandsomethings who cleaned out stables in Philadelphia, then took their pitchforks and kicked your great-great-grandsomethings’ posh English asses off the continent.
Katherine is a bit harder to like at first, perhaps because her 1815 concerns seem frivolous when compared to contemporary life. Sometimes, I wanted to shake her and say, “wake up!” because as a reader, you know more than she does (i.e., that her father’s a jackass, for one, and that Thomas Baker and Nicholas are both not entirely what they seem). But when Katherine starts to wise up, you’re rooting for her right alongside Cat because you want to know how her story turns out.
Among the added bonuses in this book: a London that is vibrant and alive, Cat’s new-found friends in London, who are all so real and well-written that I want a sequel or companion novel just so I can find out more about them, and a serious swoon factor. Whether you’re reading about Cat and Will or Katherine and her suitors, Jensen’s scenes crackle so much chemistry, you can practically feel the heat and hear their hearts beating.
The only part of the book I didn’t like was when Cat lapsed into writing via text speak or email speak. It was used sparingly, so it didn’t distract too much, but I’m still not a fan. That was the only blip, however, in an overall delightful book that is a must-read for any Anglophile who hopes to find their own English boy to fall in love with.
[Photo Credit: Amazon.com]