This was my first read for the 12 Challenge, recommended to me by a Twitter-friend, Katrina. It was also the first book I read in January, after being a grumpy bunny and reading nothing during December. Primarily, I was reading it because a friend of mine had lent me her Kindle so I could do so and I was keen to get it back to her asap, but I was very soon reading it just for the joy of it. Sometimes, I am just so grateful to books and their authors for where they take me and to whom they introduce me, and meeting Miss Mildred Percy in the chilly dark of January was exactly what I needed.
So rather than do a usual semi-coherent post about what I loved, I decided to write a letter to Mildred instead. In my best la-di-dah oldie worldie style.
Just, humour me, OK?
Dear Miss Percy,
Might I call you Mildred? I feel that we are acquainted well enough for me to do so, but that you, perhaps, would recoil from so informal an address. I shall not take the chance of offending, I think.
Miss Percy, I am so glad to have made your acquaintance, via Quenby Olson’s superior manuscript entitled Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons, this January past. You have given me hope that adventure can be had at any age, that life can be grabbed by the horns even at the very last moment.
Your situation when your story opened, was one of such constraint. As a single woman of a certain age, with no property, in the England of 1816, I understood the necessity of your living with your younger sister, Diana, and her family, and having to play the part of nanny to her children, (whilst accepting every little insult your sister cared to throw at you), but it wrenched my heart all the same. I raged on your behalf in those first few chapters and found it very easy to hate your sister. I lamented the rhythm of your days, dictated by others’ needs and wants.
I was not sure how your inheritance from your Great Uncle Forthright (such a fabulously named gentleman) should benefit you at first, when it became clear that it would not free you from Diana’s ‘care’. And yet, it was the beginning of everything, was it not? Your meeting with Mr Wiggan in the garden that night opened the door of the vicarage to you, a place of refuge. Although I must say I wasn’t expecting Fitz to explode into that refuge quite as he did! That you should discover a dragon egg in your Great Uncle’s belongings was a wonder; that it should then hatch into a bouncing baby Fitz a delight of a different sort entirely. Thank goodness for Mr Wiggan and his marvellous housekeeper Mrs Babbington!
(In fact, I can’t help but think of Mrs Babbington as the second heroine of your tale. Her level-headed good sense in most situations and her superior culinary skills make her a most admirable woman indeed. I must say too, that if I am ever lucky enough to try her almond-glazed biscuits, I shall consider myself the most fortunate of beings. Please pass on my deepest admiration to the lady).
That you all managed to guard the secret of Fitz’s existence, even with the involvement of two small children, is, of course, a valiant deed in and of itself. I worried over whether you could continue to manage the necessary deception and admired your every subterfuge. More so, I was delighted to see you, little by little, rediscover your own self. Your desire for adventure and your strength of character began to shine through and I must admit to cheering aloud for you on several occasions. I do not marvel at Mr Wiggan’s tender feelings for you, but I do so hope for your happiness.
I think what you have made me appreciate all over again, Miss Percy, is that an adventure does not have to entail long journeys into far off lands. This first part of your story may have been confined to English homes and gardens, but it was no less an adventure for all that. And that you live a domestic life in a small sphere, makes you no less a heroine.
Quenby Olson has done such a beautiful job of recording your tale. You were wise to entrust it to her care. Her wit (such wit!) and insight are what have given me the confidence to write to you directly, feeling as though we are friends already, for all that we have yet to meet in the flesh. I hope you will forgive any forwardness on my part – I was ever a slave to my imagination. Perhaps this is something you can understand? – I do so hope that you will entrust the continuation of your tale to her? You could have a no more faithful chronicler; and no more excited a reader.
Your admiring friend etc.