I’m going to be honest, this one didn’t really do it for me. It had its moments (mainly to do with the rather wonderful hero, Carlin), but I never came to like the headstrong heroine, who consistently barges into any situation that would really be better left to those more suited to it. And being a novella, it was too short to go into greater depth, which might have made her more likeable. Still, not a bad little story, on the whole, and at least there were consequences to her actions.
Here’s the premise: Lady Pamela Frayne can’t resist getting involved in whatever outrageous escapade takes her fancy, so when her rackety brother seems to have filched a valuable government document from their grandfather to sell to offset his gaming debts, Lady Pamela dives into the fray to rescue him from disaster. Making her way to the country house where she thinks the document may have ended up, she’s delayed by snow, and no postilions will turn out to take her on the final stage. Fortuitously, a regular stage coach comes through, driven by an eccentric coachman called Carlin who’s determined to press on regardless. Lady P has found her transport. Needless to say, they come to grief and are forced to improvise once again. But the inn where they end up also contains a woman with a broken leg who just happened to be on her way to take up a position as lady’s maid at the very house Lady P is headed for. So off Lady P goes to pretend to be the lady’s maid and see what she can find out. The oddball coachman, meanwhile, is intrigued enough to follow her there and get involved in her scheming (and to rescue her when things go amiss).
When they realise the document isn’t there, they head back to London, where the consequences of Lady P’s outrageous behaviour upsets her very upright fiance, Lord Babcoke, and the entire ton. And so the plot runs on fairly predictable rails to the inevitable conclusion. Lady P is fairly stupid, and as heroines go I’m not at all enamoured of the type who hurls herself willy-nilly into any situation regardless of the consequences.
Carlin I liked much better as the devil-may-care nobleman. Being reckless seems to sit much better on a hero than on a heroine (in Regency times, anyway). My only grumble with him is that he struts around telling Lady P (and the world!) that he’s going to marry her when she’s still betrothed to Lord Babcoke, and although it’s a spectacularly ill-suited pairing, it’s very rude to announce your intentions before the engagement is officially over. And I do prefer it if the hero actually asks the heroine first. However, that’s par for the course for books of this age, whose original readership perhaps preferred a domineering kind of hero. We modern readers prefer our heroines to be treated respectfully, and as something more than a man’s rightfully property (even if they actually were, of course, two hundred years ago).
A silly plot, a very silly heroine and redeemed only by a fun hero, so only three stars, but I’ve enjoyed others by Clare Darcy much better than this, so I’ll put it down as an unusual blip.