I had no idea what to expect going into Ridiculous, a book that was free on Kindle eons ago and subsequently left to rot in the digital ether. My attitude upon finally starting it was basically “I guess I should get around to reading this old thing,” which is now hilarious because if I had any clue how much I would have enjoyed this book I would have read it immediately.
What you have in Ridiculous is a cross-dressing regency romantic comedy. I put it that way because it’s cut from the same cloth of romcom film that populated the 90s and early aughts, that is based on a huge contrivance and mines that absurd situation for humor. Also, there is not much drama to be found anywhere, and the romance itself is ridiculously farcical and kind of secondary, not really playing out until the final third of the book. Sure, there are moments of pining for the man she can’t have because she’s dressed as a man (and also, he’s a Duke) but there is zero heavy angst, and even the expected reveal/Big Misunderstanding plays out completely differently, and much lighter, than I have been trained to expect. It’s almost all wit and lightness, all the time, and the clever humor really gets to shine through the character constructed by our heroine to hide her lack of masculinity under the mask of an entertaining, foolish man. It is outrageously implausible, and completely, undeniably entertaining.
The story begins when Millicent Boarder, her mother, and her two sisters, find themselves facing certain impoverished homelessness after the relative who had been begrudgingly hosting them dies. Rather than allow her family to be cast out, Millicent decides she looks enough like her mother’s cousin to just fake the death of Millicent Boarder and, instead, take on the life of Mr. Anthony North. They’ll have to get out of Yorkshire, where people who know Mr. North well enough will spot the deception, so they go to Bath and, eventually, as Mr. North, Millicent travels around England visiting Mr. North’s many tenants and looking after his properties. On one such journey, she encounters the Duke (referred to in the book primarily, and hereafter, as Schoffer) and his younger sister Beth, in an overturned carriage. After helping them along and offering them temporary residence at her destination, the three wind up becoming fast friends. This closeness earns Millicent and her family invitations to the upcoming London season, thereby giving Millicent’s sisters the best chance at a secure future by meeting marriageable men. As for Millicent herself, she thought she had been content to live a quiet life of hidden spinsterhood, but along comes Schoffer and she has regrets.
If I haven’t made it clear already, this book lacks any seriousness whatsoever, so if you enjoy or prefer that in your romances, this is not for you. It’s a hilarious romp from start to finish, including handwavy conveniences that make everything just a little too easy for Millicent to perform her charade and, eventually, win her Duke. But that all hardly mattered for me when I was having as much fun reading as I did. If you need anything at all to lift your spirit, I highly recommend this book.