Annabella's Diamond

Balmorrow's Bride

Camilla's Fate

A Devilish Dilemma

Mutiny at Almacks

A Season of Virtues

Lord Nightingale’s Debut
& Lord Nightingale’s Love Song

by Judith A. Lansdowne
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6671-6 & 0-8217-6688-0
I didn’t have time to read and review the first book in Judith Lansdowne’s new series when it came out in August. What with the new semester starting with all the pressures that entails, I really fell behind on my reading. Things having settled down somewhat, I am starting to catch up. As I perused the first and second books in the “Nightingale” saga, I concluded that I simply can’t just review one without the other. Hence this rather unusual joint endeavor.

We all enjoy continuing characters in our books, and Lansdowne has come up with one of the most unusual yet: a parrot. Lord Nightingale is a wily old macaw with an extensive vocabulary and a great gift for judging character. Needless to say, he is a most amusing fellow.

Debut places “his lordship” at the center of the action. Nicholas, Earl of Wickenshire has been bequeathed Nightingale by his aunt, along with a substantial fortune. But there is one proviso to his inheritance. Nicholas must teach the bird to sing by June 1, or all that lovely money will go to Nicky’s dastardly cousin, Neil Spelling who doesn’t need it but would like it nonetheless.

Nicky does need the money; his father died seventeen years ago when Nicky was a lad of thirteen. Since that time, by dint of hard work and constant effort, the earl has succeeded in turning two of his three estates into profitable undertakings. If Nicky inherits his Aunt Winifred’s fortune, he will be able to make planned improvements in the final holding, Willowsweep. He will be able to take his seat in the House of Lords and begin living like an earl instead of like a farmer. But how can Nicky teach Lord Nightingale to sing? He himself can neither sing nor play a note.

Providence in the person of Serendipity Bedford comes to the earl’s rescue. Actually, the earl is also rescuing Serendipity. Her father’s sudden death has left her and her little sister Delight at the mercy of the new Viscount Upton, and Sera needs to find a position to support herself and her sister. Thus, when her best friend Eugenia Chastain suggests that Sera come to her cousin Nicky’s home to teach Lord Nightingale to sing, Sera agrees immediately.

Sera finds that neither the earl, nor Willowsweep nor Lord Nightingale are at all what she expected. The house is in terrible shape, Lord Wickenshire dresses like a laborer and works like one as well, and her pupil is a parrot. But Nicky is amazingly kind to her sister, helping the seven year old overcome the shyness that has resulted from the port wine birthmark on her face. Serendipity soon realizes that her employer is the kindest, most admirable man she has ever met. The stage is set for them to fall in love, but trouble soon appears.

Neil and his good friend, the new Lord Upton, arrive at Willowsweep, both with evil intentions. Neil wants to abduct Lord Nightingale while Upton wants to get Serendipity into his power for his own nefarious ends. Before Nicky and Sera can have their happy ending, they have to thwart their unwelcome visitors schemes, with, of course, the help of Lord Nightingale.

Lord Nightingale’s Debut is a most enjoyable romp. There is lots of humor, mostly provided by the parrot. Nicky is a most admirable hero, a man who is the antithesis of the frivolous gentlemen of the ton. Serendipity (I’m really not sure anyone in the early 19th century would have so named a daughter but I respect Lansdowne’s knowledge of Regency society so much that I am willing to suspend disbelief) is a sweet and intelligent young lady who deserves such a fine man. Delight is perhaps a bit too precious, but the rest of the secondary characters are nicely done.

In sum, Lord Nightingale’s Debut provides a fine beginning to the projected series.

Lord Nightingale’s Love Song is not quite as good, but still quite enjoyable. It begins some ten months later and its heroine is Eugenia Chastain, Nicky’s cousin. His improved fortune has permitted him to give Eugenia a season, but she has not been a success. A childhood accident left her with one short leg, which means she walks with a pronounced limp. For all her kindness and intelligence, Eugenia has neither the beauty nor the fortune which might have led potential suitors to overlook her handicap.

One evening, suddenly overcome by her situation, Eugenia seeks refuge on a balcony, only to encounter another escapee from the social whirl. The Marquess of Bradford, heir to the Duke of Southerland, has no time for the fripperies and foolishness of society. For four years, since he turned eighteen, he has been on a personal quest to find someone near and dear to him. His dour personality and latent unhappiness are obvious even at this first meeting.

Chance intervenes. His lordship has leased a manor in Kent for the summer. The house just happens to be next door to Wicken, where Eugenia has come to assist the Dowager Countess to care for Delight while Nicky and Sara take a delayed wedding trip. Of course, the two meet again when Delight discovers Bradford’s beautiful strawberry roan horse and falls in love with him. Bradford thus meets Lord Nightingale who immediately decides the marquess is a fine fellow and worthy of his confidence.

Cousin Neil arrives on the scene again, with his friend Mr. Arnsworth in tow. Once again, Neil is scheming, this time to marry Eugenia to the rich but socially unacceptable Arnsworth. His motives are, as usual, selfish.

Lord Nightingale’s Love Song is primarily about Bradford and the deep-seated reasons for his sadness. That he finds in Eugenia someone to confide in and to trust allows him to begin healing. He also finds a clue that might help him to find what he is looking for and uncovers another secret from his family’s past.

From a plotting point of view, I guess I would have to say that Lord Nightingale’s Love Song depends a bit too heavily on coincidence. But coincidences do happen. The characters, especially Eugenia, are well done and there is a nice dollop of humor to lighten the atmosphere.

Certainly, readers who enjoyed the first book will want to follow the adventures of Lord Nightingale. After all, sooner or later, we will find out what the blasted parrot means when he keeps saying “Knollsmarmer.” And what does the addition of “dit com pom themthere” imply? Unfortunately I’ve never been good at word games, so I can only hope that next month’s Lord Nightingale’s Triumph will provide the solution.

--Jean Mason

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