An Uncommon Courtship

The Artful Heir

The Gallant Gambler
His Lordship’s Swan

The Magnolia Tree

Miss Maitland's Letters

The Noble Nephew

The Righteous Rogue

The Scandalous Heiress

The Seductive Spy

Three for Brighton

To Catch a Scoundrel

 
Miss Wilson’s Reputation
by Martha Kirkland
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20587-1
***
Miss Harriet Wilson, who unfortunately shares the same name as one of London’s most famous courtesans, spies a man begin attacked one evening from the back window of her small townhouse. She brings the well-dressed stranger inside and bandages his head, but refuses to give him her name. Harriet doesn’t want anything to threaten her jewelry design business. The gentleman, Randolf Dunford, is a baron. He’s astonished to se Harriet’s name on a business card and instantly jumps to the wrong conclusion as to her identity.

This is cleared up, and as a way of thanking her for her help, Rand commissions a brooch for his mistress. It seems he’s unwittingly been a customer of Miss Wilson’s before, but this time, the delivery is mishandled. Rand’s soon-to-be-ex-mistress is given a paste copy of the real brooch, and Harriet decides she must find the mysterious baron and rectify the mistake. She takes her young cousins and heads for Leicestershire and Lord Dunford’s hunting box.

Harriet is astonished when the first person she meets is the stranger whose head she bandaged. Rand, wishing to dodge his reputation as the rakish “Lord Care-for-Naught”, gives his name as “Mr. Randolph” and offers to show Harriet and her cousins around the countryside. The story becomes a bit of a farce as Rand becomes trapped in his lies even as he’s falling for Harriet.

There is a secondary romance between a plain daughter of a wealthy mine owner and a shirttail relation of Harriet’s, and Rand’s younger brother Dunford also plays a part. Rand has a painful family history that he needs to resolve, too. All in all, there’s a lot going on, though the threads interweave neatly.

Two things kept me from enjoying this book as much as I might have. One was the author’s tendency to lapse into rather fussy prose for no reason. These people don’t eat, for example, they “break their fast”, or “partake of a substantial breakfast”. It seemed affected and it certainly distracted this reader. By the second half of the book, though, the action picked up and such mannerisms were largely forgotten in favor of more straightforward prose.

The second annoyance was Harriet’s reaction when faced with the truth of Rand’s deception. Or rather, Rand tries to explain, and Harriet lapses into the Regency version of “I won’t listen to a thing you have to say!”, which was utterly ridiculous and completely out of sync with her character up to that point. She does eventually recover, but it was a jarring note.

A subplot involving a villain from Rand’s past is used to set up a climactic moment, but readers will see it coming. No surprises here, though it’s handled intelligently.

Rand and Harriet are a good match. The tension between them builds nicely, and readers will be pleased at their happy ending.

Miss Wilson's Reputation is an enjoyable romance with enough twists to keep it entertaining. Consider this a solid Regency read.

--Cathy Sova


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