The plot of an heiress fleeing an unwelcome marriage has been used, in
one variation or another, in countless Regency romances. Lady
Miranda's Masquerade is a mildly pleasant variation on this old
Lady Miranda Henley has chosen to flee her stepbrother's home rather
than fall in with his plans to marry the obnoxious Major Caldwell. The
major is perfectly willing to pay well to marry the heiress. Miranda
decides to go to her old governess now living in London. But her horse
comes up lame and she finds herself having to make her way on foot,
hiding from the pursuing Sylvester. As she crosses a road, she tangles
with a carriage driven by "Lord" Julian Benton. (Note to American
Regency authors: the younger sons of earls do not have courtesy
Lord Julian is traveling home from Oxford, having gotten into still
another scrape. He carries the now unconscious young woman with him
into the bosom of his family.
The head of the family is Charles Benton, Earl of Crossfield. Charles
came into his title and responsibilities at an early age and has always
been a responsible and respected young man. When Julian arrives with
the lovely victim of the accident, he immediately orders that she
receive the best of care. Miranda remains unconscious for some time,
and the countess' companion, looking for some kind of hint as to who she
is, finds a letter addressed to Mary Hamilton in her bandbox. When
Miranda comes to, she discovers that the Bentons have concluded that she
is indeed Mary. She chooses not to correct them, for she fears that her
stepbrother will find her.
Charles is perturbed when he learns that his lovely house guest is named
Mary Hamilton. It seems that one of his good friends was royally
cheated by a woman with that name who fits the description of the young
woman in his guest room. He leaps to the conclusion that this Mary
Hamilton may well be the same person who mistreated his friend.
To be honest, this seems like a weak reed to bear the weight of the
story, especially since Miranda's behavior once she recovers is all that
is genteel and since she demonstrates a great deal of good sense and
seems to be a lady in every sense of the word. Certainly, Charles'
mother finds no fault with her guest's actions. For his part, Charles
is confused by his own reaction to the lovely "Mary." Does he keep
finding errands for Julian because he fears his brother will become
caught up in her wiles, or is he jealous of the time they spend
For her part, Miranda finds the earl most attractive, but she is
confused by the disdain he sometimes directs towards her. She certainly
feels guilty about the deception she is practicing, but feels she has no
As I said at the outset, Lady Miranda's Masquerade is a mildly
pleasant Regency romance. While Miranda is an interesting creation,
most of the rest of the folks who people the story seem to be pretty
much stock characters. I must admit that Charles, with his groundless
suspicions, did not come across as a great romantic hero. I was never
quite sure why Miranda fell in love with him, which is something of a
problem in a love story.
If you are looking for a "mildly pleasant Regency romance," you might
enjoy this book.