A Poor Relation

 
My Lady Angel
by Joanna Maitland
(Harl. Historical, $5.50, G) ISBN 0-373-29337-2
**
The aura of the Regency era comes through nicely in My Lady Angel Unfortunately it is wasted on two characters that fight and argue their way into love. When I ended up thinking (rather spitefully) they deserved each other, it was clear that the story had not touched my heart.

Angelina Rosevale is nicknamed for an angel, but is anything but. She is a widow, having lost her first husband when he fell from his horse in a fit of anger. He was no great loss. He was only concerned about an heir and after years of marriage and a purportedly barren Angel, he caused her to miscarry when she finally got pregnant and then proceeded to beat her for it. Needless to say, though she is a widow, she is inexperienced and somewhat nave. When her father passes away, he leaves Angel an entailed title and a fortune that comes with it.

Frederick (Max to his friends), the new Earl of Penrose, Angel's distant cousin, has inherited the title but no money. He really doesn't want either, but feels some responsibility to the family. His love is being in the service of his country, but with Bonaparte defeated, he has returned to England. He finds himself needing a rich bride. To add to his worries, he is confronted with Pierre, a young man from France who claims to be the son of Angelina's long-lost uncle, making him the heir to the Earldom.

Angel and Max do not start off well. They fight and argue on sight, partly due to a family feud between their fathers and continued by their Aunt Charlotte, who happens to be staying with Angel. Angel is determined to be a strong "head of the family" and refuses to allow Pierre to be sent off until his claim can be looked into. This infuriates Max and they snipe and bicker, resulting in two people who huff and puff and then stalk off to sulk.

Meanwhile we learn that Angel has horrible menstrual cramps and endured terrible treatment by her first husband. Little is revealed about Max, except he hates his name Frederick and loved the army. He also has a lovely, sympathetic and very smart lady named Louisa as his mistress.

Max and Angel meet again at a masked party that is less than something the ton would approve. Angel does not cover her silver hair so Max knows who she is. Max is in a great costume, so Angel doesn't have a clue. She starts flirting with him after she discovers that Pierre seems to be lusting after his sister, who he left in France. (Sound rather complicated and yet silly it was!) The flirting turns into seduction when Max decides to teach Angel a lesson and loses control. Their coupling is broken up in the nick of time when Angel starts to remember how horrible her husband was and faints dead away down and out for the count. She doesn't even wake up when Max dresses her and lays her out on a cold bench in the conservatory.

This liaison however, is the basis for their lust and eventual love. Now all they have to resolve is the question of Pierre's claim. Oh yes, and the fact that Angel doesn't realize her lover was Max, her hated cousin. She only knows she gets hot all over when he touches her.

Angel is a termagant and generally disagreeable whenever she is around Max. Max is rude and snide and generally flying off in a temper whenever he is around Angel. Until they realize they love each other. Then they become sickeningly sweet. If you can buy this logic, you may well enjoy this tale much more than I. I could not make the slide into romance land, so this whole story was less than enjoyable. The plot line around Pierre was fairly nonsensical and was resolved in a similar fashion. The secondary plot line about the mistress seemed less than necessary, although she did serve as Max's confidante.

My Lady Angel is less than an angel and her love interest was less than a sterling hero. They did deserve each other but that doesn't mean I enjoyed reading about it.

--Shirley Lyons


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