The Captain's Courtship

The Lieutenant's Lady

Lady Diana’s Darlings
by Kate Huntington
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, PG) ISBN 08217-6655-4
Kate Huntington made quite a splash last year with her two delightful Regency romances, The Captain’s Courtship and The Lieutenant’s Lady. Both books demonstrated a real gift for storytelling and characterization and a real feel for the Regency period. While in some ways not as unusual as the two previous books, Lady Diana’s Darlings is a most enjoyable traditional Regency, making good use of many of the conventional plot devices with some interesting twists.

The first twist is right at the beginning. We find our heroine, Lady Diana, Viscountess Dunwood not in London but in sunny Naples where she has traveled with her good friend, Caroline Bennington. Both women are widows, but while Caroline is well on the shady side of thirty, Diana is a mere twenty. Married at sixteen and widowed at nineteen, Diana is still in mourning for her husband. She has traveled to Italy with her friend and her 18-month-old son as much to escape her unpleasant mother-in-law as for any desire for adventure.

Caroline, on the other hand, has a great desire for adventure, which gets Diana in trouble. Caroline pressures her friend to attend a less than respectable evening at the home of the notorious Count Zarcone, with predictable results. Fortunately, Diana is rescued by her husband’s cousin, Nicholas Rivers, Lord Arnside. Nicholas is not surprised to find Diana in such unsuitable company; during the early days of her marriage, her youthful high spirits had made her something of a scandal.

Nicholas has come to Naples to see his artist cousin, who is under Zarcone’s patronage. Having spent several years in the army, he is just beginning his adjustment to civilian life. One of the adjustments will be to marry. He has been unofficially betrothed to young Penelope Chalmers at his father’s behest. As soon as he arrives back in England, his Aunt Edith, the dowager viscountess, begins to pressure him to make the betrothal official. After all, Penelope is worth £40,000.

Nicholas believes Penelope to be a demure Bath miss. Imagine his surprise when she turns up at the Dunwood townhouse, insisting that her godmother, Aunt Edith, sponsor her for the season before she settles down to matrimony. Penelope finds not Aunt Edith, but rather Lady Diana, who has come to London to escape the oppressive atmosphere at Dunwood Manor. Diana agrees wholeheartedly with Penelope that she should have her season before she marries and agrees to sponsor her. Thus, Nicholas and Diana are thrown together with disturbing results.

I suppose that if I have any complaint about Lady Diana’s Darlings it is that there are simply too many plot threads is such a short book that the romance sometimes overshadowed. Because there is so much going on, many of the threads are not fully developed.

Still, Lady Diana’s Darlings passed my “put-down, pick up” test. Despite numerous distractions (the grandchildren were visiting), I picked up the book with enthusiasm at every possible moment. I think that what made Lady Diana’s Darlings so enjoyable was the fact that I liked Diana and Nicholas very much and think that Huntington has a real gift for creating characters who seem like they are indeed living in Regency England.

Thus, while I cannot say that Lady Diana’s Darlings is as strong a book as the two previous novels, I nonetheless feel comfortable recommending it. Kate Huntington is, without a doubt, one of our most promising new Regency authors.

--Jean Mason

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