Title: Mr. Malcolm’s List
Author: Suzanne Allain
Publication date: June 21, 2022 (reissue — originally published 2009)
Print length: 256 pages
Genre: Regency romance
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an arrogant bachelor insistent on a wife who meets the strictest of requirements–deserves his comeuppance.
The Honourable Mr. Jeremy Malcolm is searching for a wife, but not just any wife. As the target of matchmaking mothers and desperate debutantes, he’s determined to avoid the fortune hunters and find a near-perfect woman, one who will meet the qualifications on his well-crafted list. But after years of searching, he’s beginning to despair of ever finding this paragon. Until Selina Dalton arrives in town.
Selina, a vicar’s daughter of limited means and a stranger to high society, is thrilled when her friend Julia Thistlewaite invites her to London, until she learns it’s all part of a plot to exact revenge on Mr. Malcolm. Selina is reluctant to participate in Julia’s scheme, especially after meeting the irresistible Mr. Malcolm, who appears to be very different from the arrogant scoundrel of Julia’s description.
But when Mr. Malcolm begins judging Selina against his unattainable standards, Selina decides that she has some qualifications of her own. And if he is to meet them he must reveal the real man behind…Mr. Malcolm’s List.
I feel like I’ve been bombarded by promos for the movie Mr. Malcolm’s List — and before deciding if I wanted to see it, I decided to give the book a try.
In this Regency romance, Mr. Malcolm is a prime catch, but catching him seems unachievable. He has a list, you see, of what he wants in a wife, and one deficiency in a prospective bride is enough to have her dropped from consideration. When one young woman, Julia, takes offense at being jilted for seemingly inconsequential reasons, she decides to take revenge.
Her great plan? Invite a school friend to London, have her captivate Mr. Malcolm, make him fall madly in love with her, and then, when he finally proposes, have his beloved inform him that he does not meet the qualifications of her list. What could possibly go wrong?
Julia’s pawn in this scheme is Selena, a vicar’s daughter who has spent the past three years in service as a companion to an elderly woman. As this woman has recently died, Selena is at loose ends, and is delighted to receive Julia’s invitation to stay with her… until she arrives and learns about Julia’s scheme. Selena is horrified, but also has nowhere else to go. Reluctantly, she agrees to play along, at least for a little while.
When she meets Mr. Malcolm, things become infinitely more complicated, because he’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen and they seem to connect instantaneously. As they begin to develop feelings, Selena yearns to be free of Julia’s plans, but more and more obstacles crop up to keep her from being honest with Mr. Malcolm. When he does finally learn the truth, it may be too late to salvage the romance that’s sparking between them.
Mr. Malcolm’s List is a quick, light read. I was entertained, but not enthralled. Perhaps I’ve just read too many Regency-set books, but there doesn’t feel that there’s much all that new or different here. Selena is the intelligent, lovely, good heroine; Mr. Malcolm is the dashing ladies’-man with a heart of gold, who just needs the right woman to reform him.
There are house parties and balls and horse-back riding, as well as scandalous moments and worries about reputations and vulgar relations. There’s talk of the season and matches and titles, and impending spinsterhood is always a concern. All pretty much staples of this type of romance, and all present and accounted for.
The story did hold my interest enough for me to want to see it through and find out how it all turns out. The pacing is a little odd at times — moments that seem like they’ll be big overaching secrets looming in the background get resolved or revealed within a paragraph. Julia’s schemes are all very obvious, and the secondary love story lacks any sort of believability or chemistry.
Still, I finished, and did find some scenes and characters amusing. As for the movie… well, it looks like the plot is fairly faithful to the book — but based on the trailer, it also appears that the movie is trying to jump on the Bridgerton bandwagon. Bridgerton‘s diverse casting was new and refreshing and innovative in so many ways. Based solely on the trailer, it would appear that the Mr. Malcolm’s List movie is trying to ride the waves of Bridgerton‘s success by copying their approach to shaking up a Regency setting through diverse casting — and while I’m absolutely in favor of diverse casting, it just seems a little… too duplicative?
Check out the movie trailer:
What do you think? Would you go see Mr. Malcolm’s List? Or does this seem too much like a Bridgerton wannabe?