The Fair Game

The Nobody

 
Falling for Chloe by Diane Farr
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20004-7
****
Diane Farr has certainly made a name for herself in a very short time. With just two books to her credit, she is already being touted as one of the best of the Regency authors. How many are nominated for three RITAS in one year? Falling for Chloe can only add to her reputation. This is a lighthearted story of two friends who find themselves unwittingly engaged, thanks to the machinations of their respective parents.

Chloe Littlefield has no intention of ever marrying. Her father had married her mother for her money and then treated her disgracefully. He got his comeuppance when Chloe’s grandfather left his fortune to her. Chloe is quite happy overseeing her property and taking care of her people. She has no interest in finding a husband, as her neighbor and best friend, Sylvester (Gil) Gilliland well knows.

Gil has come home from London to ask for Chloe’s help. His sister and her dear friend Trish is clearly in some sort of trouble, and Gil thinks that Chloe might be able to discover what is wrong. Gil follows Chloe as she rides away from her home and then disaster strikes. Chloe is thrown from the horse, lands in a mud puddle, it starts pouring, and the two have to take shelter in a nearby cottage. Stranded for the night, Chloe and Gil are appalled when their respective parents suggest that she has been compromised and they should marry. Chloe persists in her antipathy to wedlock and Gil returns to London.

Imagine Gil’s surprise one morning when he reads their engagement announcement in The Morning Post. He receives a frantic missive from Chloe who has rushed to London and is staying with Trish. Of course, the pair are now in a pickle. How can they get out of this imbroglio without losing face or reputation? Trish, a dashing young matron, seizes the opportunity to induce Chloe to stay in town and to get a taste of society. Knowing that Gil is worried about Trish, Chloe agrees.

Trish is indeed in trouble. She and her husband Robert have drifted apart and she has begun flirting madly with the rakish Lord Rival. Chloe devises a scheme to draw Rival’s attention away from her friend and perhaps solve the problem of ending the betrothal. That she finds Rival strangely attractive adds a bit of spice to the whole affair.

Thus Farr has set up a delightful story with all sorts of interesting plots and subplots. We have Chloe’s introduction to London society, the marital problems of the Dalrymple’s, Gil’s gradual recognition that his feelings for Chloe are stronger than mere friendship, and Chloe’s own confusion about her feelings. Farr weaves all these various threads deftly into a fast-moving and entertaining story.

I have heard Farr likened to the “sainted Georgette” in her style and sensibility. And indeed, the author pays homage to the creator of the Regency romance in Falling for Chloe. It was delightful to find Gil, Chloe and Trish attending the ball given by the Marquess of Alverstoke for his niece. There is likewise another, subtler homage in Farr’s book. Gil is just a wee bit like Freddy Standen, one of Heyer’s most popular heroes, although Farr’s hero is handsomer.

There is a real sense in which all Regency romances derive from Heyer’s books, although the genre has obviously changed markedly in the more than two decades since her death. Still, many Regency fans like yours truly who cut our eye teeth on Heyer's delightful, witty tales are always looking for authors who have a voice which -- however contemporary -- reminds us of why we became fans of Regency romances in the first place. Farr is such an author. May she continue to write such entertaining and amusing stories for a long, long time to come.

--Jean Mason


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