Kasey Michaels's Alliterative Romances

In Kasey Michaels's alliterative trio of novels--The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane, The Playful Lady Penelope, and The Haunted Miss Hampshire--Lucinda Benedict, whose eccentric mode of communication has made her a social oddity, becomes hostess to increasingly bemused young ladies. Either troublesome or in trouble, Miss Tamerlane, Lady Penelope, and Miss Hampshire each end up with Lucinda and discover true love with the unlikely aid of a woman who speaks only the words of dead men. Lucinda's quotations are little more than bricolage, overt acknowledgment that all language has been used and overused, possibly especially the characteristic language of the romance novel. But in this unlikely form, Shakespeare's words enables romantic union.

Even after death, as the ghost who haunts Miss Hampshire, Lucinda is advancing matches and offering Shakespearean quotations at crucial intervals in service of that goal. Having left her home jointly to Cassandra Hampshire and Philippos, Lord Hawedon with the condition that they must both stay there for two months together, Lucinda in effect binds her ghost to the house unless the match between the two works. Cassandra is the first to realize this problem when she meets the ghost:

So Cassandra undertakes to charm the earl in order to free Lucinda's ghost while her ghost supplies her support through quotations from the bard, including an encouraging reference to the rose from Romeo and Juliet when Philippos is being most difficult.

Of course, Lucinda quotes freely from other sources as well and indeed must quote other writers around her friend, the dowager duchess, who berates the ghost when first seeing her, "'Shakespeare! How dare you quote the great Will to me, you vacant grinning twit ... It's one thing to come back and haunt me, but to quote Shakespeare to me at the same time? No! It is too much for one old woman to bear!" (87). Nonetheless, Kasey Michaels clearly envisions Shakespeare as central to the character, as her Author's Note at the end of the novel indicates: "So we have bid a final, fond farewell to Aunt Lucinda, who is off to join her adored Jerome, knowing that she would not wish our regrets, but only quote from the dowager duchess's beloved bard: 'If ever though shalt love,/In the sweet pangs of it remember me ...'" Through Lucinda's inability to escape the words of men, she usurps and extends Orsino's hyperbolic claim to his page--Lucinda becomes the one who has truly loved and who can enable the listening women in these novels to achieve the heightened romantic union he can only imagine in Twelfth Night.

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