What makes a Regency novel? Is it the year in which it is set, or is it the style of the book? I've never really thought about this, but a few days ago I read an absolutely fabulous book, which for some reason I'd never come across before, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.
It's brilliant - funny, endearing, exactly the sort of book I adore. It isn't a Regency in terms of its setting, the book is set in the 1930s, but in every other way it's like a Regency novel. In fact, it reminds me of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.
Here is the plot: Miss Pettigrew, a poverty stricken spinster, is forced to seek employment as a governess. She turns up unknowingly at the wrong address, and is confronted with Miss Delysia LaFosse, an alluring nightclub singer.
Miss Pettigrew has been warned all her life against everything Miss LaFosse represents: glamour, allure, lipstick, lovers, romantic entanglements. But Miss Pettigrew can't afford to be fussy and so she stays.
What happens next is a glorious comedy in which Miss Pettigrew finds friendship and fun. She also finds hidden depths. Like a female Jeeves - though her triumphs are usually the result of happy accidents rather than great brain - she manages to untangle the life of her new employer.
She is a kind of Miss Bates turns Grand Sophy and the results are heartwarming and hilarious. So although it's set in the 1930s, to me, in a funny kind of way, it's a Regency.
I never thought, when I picked it up in a bookshop last week, that I was holding in my hands one of my yet-to-be-discovered favourite novels. What a treat!