A Dash of Scandal

 
A Little Mischief by Amelia Grey
(Berkley, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-425-19277-6
***
It’s the start of a new Season, and Daniel, the new Earl of Colebrook, needs to find a suitable wife. He inherited the title after the deaths of his father and older brother; this year, he’s aware of his familial obligations and plans to marry. First, however, he has another task at hand. His sister Gretchen has joined a women’s reading society hosted by Isabella Winslowe. While most of the ton remains unaware that the group has been dubbed the “Wallflower Society” by a few bachelors, Daniel fears that the association may cast a shadow on Gretchen’s marital prospects.

Before Daniel can take action, a bigger problem develops. After one society meeting, Isabella finds Gretchen in the garden standing over an apparently dead Boswell Throckmorten, a gambler and rake. Gretchen claims not to know what happened. Isabella immediately takes a confused Gretchen home so they can discuss what occurred with Daniel. He doesn’t believe Isabella’s story and becomes convinced that she’s “up to some kind of trickery” when they return to the garden and find Throckmorten gone. Despite Isabella’s assertions that Throckmorten was dead, Daniel believes he must be alive. This confrontation ends with Daniel wishing Isabella a “good day . . . and good riddance.”

The issue appears to be resolved when the couple sees Throckmorten at a party. Unfortunately, he’s later found dead by both Daniel and Isabella. Once again, Gretchen is nearby. They leave the scene only to return minutes later and discover that Throckmorten has once again disappeared. In the days that follow, Isabella and Daniel learn that Throckmorten is really dead, and they agree to solve the mystery so they can prove Gretchen was not involved.

The mystery is one of the stronger aspects of the book. I was immediately drawn into the story — especially after Throckmorten’s apparently dead body disappears twice, and I looked forward to discovering the solution. There are several suspects, but the answer soon becomes clear. Sadly, the resolution didn’t live up to the early promise and was a bit of a letdown.

The two crime solvers are less interesting and, to some degree, stereotypical. Isabella is a beautiful, innocent, and intelligent miss who has vowed not to marry: “I plan to remain unmarried and declared a spinster so that I will be responsible for myself.” Daniel loves and wants to protect his sister, which I found admirable. He also fit the stereotype of a titled man seeking a demure woman to be his wife. Both hero and heroine seem more like character sketches than fully developed characters. This lack of depth makes it difficult to connect with them and makes the romance in A Little Mischief less compelling than it could have been. Their attraction is based more on appearance and proximity than on a meeting of minds and hearts.

While I admire stories that demonstrate research into a specific time and setting, I’m not a stickler for detail. I often enjoy books that are light on historical information, sometimes described as “wallpaper” settings. In this case, however, I was distracted by several statements that seem uncharacteristic of the time period. Take Isabella’s statement when Daniel reminds her that she cannot go to Throckmorten’s unattended: “Don’t be stuffy, Daniel. You will be my chaperone.” Isabella may be innocent, but she should know that this is inappropriate.

Readers who enjoy lighthearted stories and don’t require historical accuracy are more apt to enjoy A Little Mischief. Those who want more depth in their romances won’t find it here.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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