Lydia is a feisty Regency heroine. She reads Mary Wollstonecraft and evades all attempts by her parents to marry her off. She prefers her horse to the wealthy, elderly, Lord Merton who presses his suit (no – he doesn’t do his own ironing! – in Regency parlance, he’s trying to seduce her) regardless of Lydia’s aversion to him, and she is bored enough to relish an escapade or two.
When she’s rudely unseated from her horse by the enigmatic Lord Sheldon’s Phaeton, her life suddenly becomes much more exciting. He claims to be a friend of her brother, but is closeted in the study with her father for serious conversations and has some odd acquaintances. Lydia, more attracted to Lord Sheldon than she wants to admit, is curious to find out what is going on and inadvertently involves her friend Elizabeth (romantically attached to Lydia’s brother) in the dangerous deceit of the title.
In the great tradition of Regency romances, this novel is peopled by unsympathetic parents, dandified, steely-eyed heroes, gullible brothers, spirited women, sinister villains and Napoleonic spies. Who is the mysterious Lady Smythe? Who is the Frenchman Lord Sheldon meets in the garden after dark?
Lydia finds herself drawn into political as well as romantic intrigue and no-one, not even her father, is who they seem to be.
I have always been a great fan of Georgette Heyer, and at one time owned all her novels. It’s hard to match her exacting standards, but this novel didn’t disappoint in its period feel and historical detail. I sometimes felt that my credibility was being stretched too far by the plot stratagems, but it was always entertaining, and recommended by this reviewer for a good romantic read.
This is Romy Gemmell’s first novel, though she’s published – and won prizes – for her short stories. Definitely one to watch.
Reviewed by Kathleen Jones
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