Mr. Trelawney's Proposal

 
A Kind and Decent Man
by Mary Brendan
(Harlequin Regency, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-51152-3
****
This is the second of the Regencies first published by Mills and Boon and released in the US by Harlequin that I have read this month and it is another enjoyable romance. This time we have a “second chance at love” story with a twist.

Seven years earlier, David Hardinge had met the lovely young Victoria Lorrimer and fallen madly in love. That he came from a disreputable family, for all his father was a viscount; that he himself had embarked on a career of dissipation; that neither his family or Victoria’s was wealthy - none of that mattered to the young man. For Victoria, he changed his behavior and sought her hand. But Victoria’s father rejected his suit and David set off to make his fortune and thus make himself acceptable. Unfortunately, Victoria didn’t wait. Instead she wed an elderly neighbor, Daniel Hart.

On Daniel’s deathbed, he makes Victoria promise that she would inform David - now Viscount Courtenay and a wealthy man - of his death. David receives the notice and, uncharacteristically, decides to go to the funeral. There he sees Victoria once again and discovers that the fascination has not died.

Victoria finds herself in dire financial straits. Her husband had let his affairs slip during his illness but the crowning blow comes when a warehouse holding goods he has imported from the east burns down and it is discovered that the clerk in charge failed to pay the insurance premium. Victoria faces losing her home, which is also a refuge for her aunt and her now demented father.

Since David came to her husband’s funeral, she decides that she will suggest a marriage of convenience to the man who once loved her but whom, she believes, abandoned her. But David has a different idea. Oh, he still wants Victoria but not as a wife; instead he proposes that, in turn for financial salvation, she become his mistress.

David is the proverbial rake but his wealth and title make him acceptable - indeed, sought after - by the match making mamas of the ton. His behavior seems intolerable, but as we learn more about his background, we understand why he has become the kind of man he is. His belief that Victoria betrayed him explains, if it does not excuse, his actions.

Victoria is a woman with overwhelming responsibilities. If her home is sold, her relatives will be completely without resources. She has had a most unusual marriage with her husband who was like a father to her but now she is alone and unprotected. Her dilemma points up the unhappy situation of women in Regency society where there were few if any options for a woman without resources. Yet if she accepts David’s offer, she will lose her respected position in society and become an outcast.

How these two unhappy souls find their happy ending is the center of this story. This is a tale of the redeeming power of love and the author makes the redemption completely believable. I certainly enjoyed reading about how David becomes “a kind and decent man.”

--Jean Mason


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