At the end of my review of Allison Lane's March release, A Bird in the Hand, I expressed a hope that the author would give Lord Sedgewick Wylie his own romance. How nice of Signet and Lane to grant me my wish so promptly! Birds of a Feather does full justice to this very interesting character.
Lord Sedgewick assumed Beau Brummel's mantle when the Beau was forced to flee England and his creditors. The son of a marquess, he is the ton's leading arbiter of behavior. The young men follow his lead; the young ladies vie for his attention. His good opinion can be the making of a debutante; his slighting remark can cause a man to rusticate. Sedgewick uses his power responsibly, seeking to curb the excesses of the younger members of the ton. It's hard work, but somebody has to do it.
Miss Joanna Patterson does not aspire to the lofty reaches of society. She has been hired by her cousin, the Earl of Wicksfield, to oversee his daughter's society debut. The earl had suffered serious financial reverses and hopes that his lovely daughter Harriet can make a good match that will help him reestablish his credit. Joanna's task is
daunting. Not only does she have to oversee the young and impetuous Lady Harriet, but she has to contend with her grasping mother.
Joanna and Lord Sedgewick meet when he rescues her from an oncoming coach as she rushes to rescue a little dog. They next "encounter" each other when she bumps into him – literally – on the street. There is nothing about the dowdy Miss Patterson to attract the fashionable Lord Sedgewick, except that her generous curves feel just right when he finds
himself accidentally embracing her.
Their acquaintance, such as it is, might have come to nothing except for the fact that Miss Patterson attracts the attention of Lord Sedgwick's brother, the Earl of Ellisham. Reggie is attracted by Joanna's intelligence and quick wit. Sedgewick is convinced by his mother that Joanna is a mere fortune hunter and seeks to separate her from his
usually woman-avoiding brother. Then, as the preview page indicates, he is accidentally found in a compromising situation with Joanna and is forced to marry her himself.
Thus, Lane has given us one of my favorite Regency plot lines: the forced marriage. And she embroiders on the dilemma by having Sedge wonder if his wife and his brother might not be in love.
Joanna may be a bit clumsy and easily distracted, but she is a mature, bright, well educated, and thoughtful woman. Sedge may appear to be a fashionable fribble, but he is also a mature, bright, well educated and thoughtful man. In short, despite appearances, they are "birds of a feather."
I must say that in Lady Wicksfield and the Marchioness of Glendale, Sedge's mother, Lane has created two of the nastiest, most selfish, most manipulative villainesses I have met in a long time. Neither will win the mother of the year award. Lane also paints a vivid picture of the follies and foibles of the ton. Watching Joanna try to steer innocent
Lady Harriet through its dangerous waters probably reflects pretty accurately the pettiness and nastiness that lay beneath its polished surface.
Birds of a Feather also reacquaints the reader with Randolph and Elizabeth from Lane's last book, as well as reintroducing characters from previous stories. It's nice to meet old friends.
Lane has taken the familiar "forced marriage" plot and given it a welcome freshness. Her characters, both primary and secondary, are fully developed and well drawn. I enjoyed Birds of a Feather very much. When Lane is good, she is very, very good.