cover image Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron

Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron

Julia Quinn and Violet Charles. Avon, $19.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-06-295859-4

Based on a novel-within-a-novel from Quinn’s blockbuster Bridgerton series, this tongue-in-cheek send-up of Gothic melodrama aims for high comedy but fails to take off. Tragic heroine Priscilla Butterworth wanders through outlandish misadventures before landing at the manor of the reputedly mad Lord Savagewood. Fibbing her way into a position as lady’s companion to Savagewood’s grandmother, Miss Butterworth piques the brooding lord’s interest and uncovers a plot against his life. The characters’ outlandish travails include rampaging wild boars, lightning strikes, cannibalism, drug-addled pigeons, and murder attempts straight out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. All of which ought to be funny, but the characters are caricatures, the plot jumps around too wildly to follow, and the manic artwork doesn’t fit the period. The characters are inconsistently drawn big-eyed lumps, a choice likely to disappoint Bridgerton fans who expect well-lit beauty and elegance along with humor, and the barely sketched-in backgrounds don’t give much impression of the era, either. There’s plenty of fodder for graphic novel adaptations in the Bridgerton universe, but this feels rushed and lacks a firm grasp on the dynamics of visual storytelling. Agent: Steve Axelrod, the Axelrod Agency. (Jan.)