Two years ago, Suzanne Allain released her novel Mr. Malcolm’s List. I’ve been planning to read it since then, but now that the movie adaptation is out, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I opted for the audiobook version, narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden, before immediately watching the film. While fairly different, both versions were delightful!
Selina has just arrived in London to stay with her friend Julia. But while Selina thinks she’s there for a bit of fun, Julia has other plans: She wants Selina to deceive the notorious Jeremy Malcolm after he rejected her. Mr. Malcolm is known for his list of requirements in a romantic partner, and so far, no one has passed the test. But Julia has intel on what those 10 requirements are, and she plans for Selina to pretend at all of them… only to reject (and embarrass) Mr. Malcolm at the end of the charade. Soon, Selina is reluctantly playing the part, but it quickly becomes apparent that she and Mr. Malcolm actually are well-matched. If only he’d give up his list, and if only Julia would give up her revenge plan.
Mr. Malcolm’s List is one of the lighter, more frivolous historical romances I’ve read, but it’s also a lot of fun. It starts when the Honourable Mr. Jeremy Malcolm—infamously picky in matters of the heart—spends one evening with Julia Thistlewaite and decides she’s not the woman for him. Julia takes this personally and intends to exact her revenge, and to do so, she’ll use her friend Selina Dalton. Through Julia’s cousin (who is also Mr. Malcolm’s best friend), Julia finds out about Mr. Malcolm’s list of required attributes in a woman, and she plans for Selina to pose as the perfect match for him… and then to reject him when he finally confesses his feelings for her. Selina isn’t enthusiastic about being part of this charade, but she’s given little choice in the matter.
From the get-go, the whole scheme sounds a little ridiculous. Luckily, Selina is in agreement there, making it feel like we’re all in on the same joke. Selina is much more inclined towards kindness and honesty; she doesn’t really understand Julia’s over-the-top anger and embarrassment over the whole ordeal. Even so, Selina agrees to meet Mr. Malcolm and display her best attributes. However, it’s quickly clear that he’s not as bad as Julia described, and moreover, he and Selina seem to actually be well suited to each other.
Everything gets messier as the story progresses. Another possible suitor for Selina is added to the mix, making it a sort of love triangle. Love square, if you include Julia. Selina becomes irritated with Mr. Malcolm, and things go very wrong at his own house party later on. The final 25% of the book may have tried my patience a bit. Some scenes are unbelievable, and some characters (including Mr. Malcolm himself) are quite unreasonable and stubborn. What was good fun become a bit ridiculous near the end.
Even so, Mr. Malcolm’s List does provide some good lessons. While there’s nothing wrong with knowing what you do and don’t want in a potential partner, being so uncompromising and scrutinizing is rather too much. Mr. Malcolm needs to lighten up and be less harsh in his judgments of others.
All things considered, Mr. Malcolm’s List is a fun and quick read. Some of the antics are comparable to the works of Martha Waters or Virginia Heath, two authors I enjoy. And as convoluted as everything gets, all of the characters reach their happy endings… some surprisingly so!
Mr. Malcolm’s List is an airy, playful, charming novel that is about learning to be more open-minded and accepting of people. It has its deeper lessons, even in the midst of charades and deceit. While it is a bit uneven, especially at the end, it is still an enjoyable read.
I also watched the movie adaptation right after and adored it. They made some notable changes, especially in the racial diversity of the cast and in improving the ending. It’s definitely worth watching, whether to compare with the book or to enjoy in its own right.
Suzanne Allain has charmed me here, and I plan to read her novel Miss Lattimore’s Letter next. Stay tuned for that review soon!
Get the Book
You can buy Mr. Malcolm’s List here – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|Mr. Malcolm‘s List by Suzanne Allain|
|Audiobook Narrator||Elizabeth Knowelden|
|Number of Pages||256|
|Format I Read||Audiobook|
|Original Publication Date||July 28, 2020|
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
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.
About the Author
Credit: Jonathan Allain
Suzanne Allain is a screenwriter who lived in New York and Beijing before returning to her hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, where she lives with her husband.
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