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The Golden Lord by Miranda Jarrett
(Harlequin Hist. # 672, $5.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29272-4
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This Regency-era book is titled The Golden Lord to parallel The Silver Lord, the previous book featuring the hero’s brother. It could also be titled The Dyslexic Duke and the Airhead. It’s the story of a duke who suffers from a reading disability but at the same time is a whiz with math and has recouped the family fortune following his dissolute father’s draining the estate and how he finds love with a sweet young thing who assists her older brother in conning innocent victims and has the good luck of bumping her head on the duke’s property. If this isn’t implausible enough for you, there’s also a Wicked Other Woman who tries to get back at the brother by writing nasty notes about the sweet young thing.

Jenny Dell sneaks out of an inn window to meet her brother Rob. Rob is departing in the dark of night to avoid paying the tab. It seems that a flirtation he struck up has turned bad – the widow’s former suitor now wants to do him bodily harm. Jenny and her brother are con artists, gulling innocent victims, so fleeing in the middle of the night is nothing new for them.

Rob believes he’s being pursued so drops Jenny off promising to return to get her. Jenny flees into the woods, knocks her head against a low tree branch (how often has that been used before?), and falls to the ground unconscious.

Brant Claremont, Duke of Strachen (in spite of the Scottish name, the story takes place in Sussex), finds her the next morning. Next thing she knows she’s tucked up in the duke’s spare room, being called Corinthia (the name she’d used on a previous con and embroidered on a fine linen hanky), Brant’s making solitary visits to her, and they’re engaging in small talk. Brant’s convinced she’s a lady born and bred and educated (the educated part is generous because she doesn’t show the least degree of learning); he initiates a search for a missing young lady in the neighborhood.

Rob’s flirtatious widow is angry at how things turned out so she starts sending anonymous notes to the duke warning him against Jenny.

I could add my own warnings to the widow’s: you can do better than this, Brant.

Only in fiction could a heroine so deserving of a repairing lease in the county gaol be rewarded with a happily ever after with a rich duke. Of course, it helps that he’s sequestered himself away from the society of eligible young misses because in any sort of reasonable comparison Jenny wouldn’t come across as much of a catch.

She and her brother (and their father before them) have been living a shady life on the edge at best. She’s concerned that Rob’s interested in pushing her at old codgers, but she isn’t pressuring him to find an honest job. What’s the harm in sharing their amusing company with folk who are willing to share their fortune? In classic romance bimbo fashion, she insists she wants to marry for love. Given their life style, how’s she supposed to meet prospective grooms? And how’s she going to introduce her brother, the con artist, to him and his family?

Other than propinquity, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Brant to fall in love with Jenny. He’s unaware of her many disadvantages, but surely some of the unanswered questions about her should raise his suspicions. Of course, she has that sweet helpless air about her that’s supposed to be so appealing to manly heroes....Maybe they deserve each other after all.

Georgette Heyer is generally credited with inventing the Regency romance. Her heroes were handsome, magnificently skillful, and generally superior to every other male in the vicinity. Gosh, I miss those days! Lately the vogue seems to be for authors to make their hero flawed in some way. Brant’s got that in spades. It’s not enough that he’s dyslexic –no, no, he has to be suffering from a horrible inferiority complex, certain that he is the only person in the world who’s got a problem. He’s got the respect and admiration of everyone around him, but he’s too wrapped up in his pity party to notice.

The Golden Lord suffers from a weak plot and unappealing characters. Just as Brant can do better than Jenny so can readers do better than this book.

--Lesley Dunlap


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