My Lady Disdain

 
The Wolfe’s Mate by Paula Marshall
(Harlequin Regency, $4.50, G) ISBN 0-373-51135-3
****
What an unusual title for a Regency romance! I have to admit that the title caught me up short and I kept postponing my reading of The Wolfe’s Mate. I hope that other potential readers are not deterred from picking up Paula Marshall’s novel. It is really quite enjoyable.

Susanna Beverly thought her life was working out just fine. The orphaned daughter of a wealthy merchant, she was betrothed to Lord Sylvester only to be left standing at the altar, literally. If the scandal weren’t enough, her stepfather informed her that her fortune was nonexistent and that she must now earn her living. He sends her off to Yorkshire to be companion to an old lady.

Four years later, Susanna is back in London, as companion and chaperon to Miss Amelia Western. When Amelia becomes engaged to George Wychwood, heir to the Earl of Babbacombe, Susanna knows she must now find another position. On her way to the employment office, Susanna is forced into a coach and kidnapped. She tries to tell her abductors that she is not Amelia, but they refuse to believe her. Thus, she finds herself at the country estate of the mysterious Mr. Ben Wolfe.

Ben Wolfe is a nabob, recently returned from India. The son of a gentleman, his life had been ruined when his mother disappeared and his father died shortly thereafter. He had joined the East India Company’s army as a private, and, thanks to his intelligence and ability, had made a huge fortune. He blames Babbacombe for his family’s fall and is determined that the Western fortune will not repair the Wychwood’s desperate finances. However, an acquaintance who can’t tell her right from her left identifies the wrong young lady as Amelia. Hence the mistake.

Ben realizes that he has placed Susanna in a difficult situation and moves quickly to salvage her reputation. He also finds the young woman who stands up to him and gives as good as she gets most intriguing. Since Ben has arranged for Susanna to become the companion of a most respectable friend of his, the two have lots of opportunity to become better acquainted. They talk, they spar, they enjoy each other’s company, and they fall in love.

But nasty rumors are circulating in the ton about Ben’s true identity. It is clear that Babbacombe is the enemy who is trying to ruin Ben’s credit. Before Ben and Susanna can begin their life together, secrets from the past must be uncovered.

The Wolfe’s Mate has a whole lot going for it. It has an attractive and spirited heroine, who confronts both bad fortune and good fortune with equal aplomb. It has a hero who is quite different from the usual aristocrat. It has a lovely romance as the author shows us how these two people fall in love. It offers a faithful recreation of Regency society and life. It has in interesting mystery. And it has a courtroom scene that rivals the best of Perry Mason.

Titles do matter, or so it seems. I hope other Regency fans are not taken aback by The Wolfe’s Mate’s somewhat unusual title. It would be a shame if Marshall’s book doesn’t get the readership it deserves. On the other hand, perhaps readers who have never read a Regency romance will be misled by the title and pick up the book. If they do, they may well become converts to the Regency. This is a very good Regency romance.

--Jean Mason


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