When I began April Kihlstrom’s new Regency romance, I was convinced that
I was going to enjoy it immensely. After all, I liked the hero and
heroine and the plot -- a “forced” marriage -- is one of my favorites.
But while I continued to like the hero and heroine, I found the
secondary plot simply too contrived and improbable, which led me to the
three heart rating you see above.
The “wily wastrel” of the title is the Honorable James Langford, younger
brother of the Earl of Darton (and of the hero of Kihlstrom’s last book,
The Reckless Barrister). James has a reputation in the ton of
being a bit of a dandy and an inveterate gambler. In fact, his gambling
is undertaken to hide his deep, dark secret. James is an inventor of
some note and his inventions have brought him a most comfortable
income. But this connection with “trade” would bring disgrace to his
family if known. Hence his pretense.
One evening at a ball, James undertakes an act of kindness. He asks
Miss Juliet Galsworthy to dance when he spies her among the
wallflowers. During the dance, James discovers that when Juliet smiles
she is truly lovely. He also discovers that she has a sharp mind behind
all her improbable ringlets.
Juliet’s mother is ecstatic that the fashionable Mr. Langford has
singled out her daughter. She had despaired of ever marrying her off.
After all, Juliet looks rather foolish in the bows and furbelows that
Mrs. Galsworthy insists she wear. But worse, Juliet too has a secret.
She has a passion for things mechanical!
When James finds himself -- somewhat to his own surprise -- pursuing the
acquaintance by taking Juliet for a drive, he is stung by her assumption
that he is a worthless fribble. So he takes her to his workshop. The
two kindred spirits become so involved in tinkering with James’ “toys,”
that before they know it, they have passed the whole night so engrossed
and, to save Juliet’s reputation, James immediately proposes
As I suggested above, I found both James and Juliet immensely attractive
and interesting characters. Both are at odds with society’s
expectations, yet they stumble on to their true soul-mate. I was truly
looking forward to watching them work out their relationship.
To a certain extent, I was not disappointed. Kihlstrom does a fine job
in describing the couple’s discovery of the sexual side of marriage,
taking full advantage of the possibilities inherent in two intelligent
young people who are relative strangers navigate these potentially
Then, things went awry, at least for me. The secondary plot involves
James’ military brother asking him to devise a method of sending signals
to France. It also pulls James’ newspaper writing sister-in-law into
the plot; the messages to be sent by James’ invention will be encoded
into her articles. And before we are done, we have run-ins with
pirates, mysterious messages, and all sorts of other improbable events.
And we have both James and Juliet behaving in ways that belie their
I realize that almost every romance novel needs a secondary plot to keep
the action moving. But I really wish Kihlstrom had provided a storyline
which depended less on derring-do and more on the unusual qualities and
capabilities of her hero and heroine.
Still, there was much to like in The Wily Wastrel. I enjoyed
meeting the characters from the previous book once again. The three
younger Langford brothers pledged never to marry at the beginning of
The Reckless Barrister. Two down and one to go. I will
certainly be reading The Sentimental Soldier in January to see
how Harry meets his fate.