Lord Freddie's First Love

An Unlikely Alliance

The Irish Earl

 
The Wrong Mr. Wright
by Patricia Bray
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7123-X
***
Diana Somerville, eldest of seven daughters, courts disaster during her first Season when she becomes too interested in Mr. George Wright, a known rake. Her naiveté is punished when she is kidnapped from a ball one night and does not return until the next morning. George Wright has ruined her, at least in the eyes of society if not in physical fact. But George has no intention of doing the proper thing, and leaves for the Continent at the first opportunity. It will be up to Stephen, Viscount Endicott, to offer for Diana. After all, Stephen has been cleaning up after his half-brother for years. This is outside of enough, and he can’t stand by and see a young woman ruined.

Diana is less-than-thrilled about the proposal. It’s her dream to become a famous explorer, and her head is filled with visions of sailing up the Nile or the Amazon, or traipsing through the African jungles. Who needs a husband? But, sensible of her family’s feelings, Diana agrees to a counter-proposal: they will become “engaged” for six months, go to London for the end of the Season, and then she’ll break it off. No harm done, her reputation will be somewhat restored, and neither of them will be shackled to a perfect stranger.

Of course, once Stephen and Diana get to know one another, they find that they rather like the idea of being engaged. A real marriage doesn’t seem like such a hardship anymore. Then George reappears and shows an interest in Diana once again. Stephen fears he’ll lose Diana to his dashing, rakehell half-sibling. Isn’t George the type of man Diana would prefer? And even though Stephen doesn’t trust George’s apparently sincere apologies for one second, Diana isn’t so sure. Perhaps George has changed. Perhaps Stephen should forgive him.

Stephen, wrapped in his proper exterior and finding it doesn’t quite fit anymore, is delightful. He’s kind, sincere, and genuinely astonished to find himself falling in love with the impetuous Diana. As he begins to see himself through her eyes, Stephen grows out of his slightly stuffy exterior and begins to take a few chances, like agreeing to go up in a tethered hot-air balloon.

Diana, for her part, is less sympathetic, partly because she seems to be a bit on the twit side when it comes to being a “famous explorer”. She reasons that she'd be an excellent explorer, because she’s read several books on the subject. When she gets the chance to do something slightly daring and adventurous (the hot-air balloon) it turns out she hasn’t the head for it, after all. It’s Stephen who must step in and carry the day. And her fairly easy acceptance of George’s professed apology strained credulity. This was the man who ruined her reputation, and now he’s hanging around looking like a whipped puppy, so he must really, really be sorry? And Stephen is cold and heartless to not forgive him! Forgive my snort of derision.

I certainly liked the premise of The Wrong Mr. Wright, and the hero was intelligent and lots of fun. The heroine didn’t quite match his standard.

--Cathy Sova


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