The Christmas Carrolls

Cupboard Kisses

Lord Heartless

Miss Lockhart's Letters

Miss Treadwell's Talent

Miss Westlake's Windfall

The Painted Lady

Saved by Scandal

A Worthy Wife

A Debt to Delia by Barbara Metzger
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20586-3
I generally enjoy Barbara Metzger’s Regencies and, indeed, there was a lot to like in A Debt to Delia: interesting premise, delightfully unaware hero, a large dollop of the author’s famous humor, a bang-up ending. If only I had liked the heroine as much as I liked the rest of the book, this would be a definite four-heart review. Unfortunately, Delia didn’t do it for me.

Let’s begin with the premise. Indeed, this is a bit more serious than some of Metzger’s stories. On a battlefield in Spain, Major Lord Tyverne faces almost certain death. His horse lies dead, his right arm is wounded and he has no way to defend himself. Then a brash young ensign rides up and insists that Ty take his horse back to the British lines. Thus, Ty survives, only to discover that his rescuer, George Croft, died in his stead.

Going through Croft’s effects, Ty discovers a letter from his sister, Delia. It appears that she is being shunned by everyone because of a baby and that her cousin is keeping her short of funds. Ty can only assume that Delia has fallen from grace, but he determines that he owes a debt of honor to young George to offer her the respectability of his name. So when he gets back to England, he hurries off to Faircroft House to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, Lord Tyverne is not yet recovered from his wounds so he arrives in a fainting state, but before he passes out, he proposes to Miss Croft. Delia does not know what to make of this handsome soldier who has arrived at her home riding her brother’s recalcitrant horse. But she just knows that she will not marry a man just because her brother saved his life.

Which is where A Debt to Delia went wrong for me. I know, it is the worst practice of reviewers to demand that an author write a different story than the one found in the pages of the book. Obviously Metzger did not intend to write a “marriage of convenience” romance. So we have Delia rejecting Ty’s suit out of hand; she will marry only for love!

The problem is that Metzger has so arranged Delia’s circumstances that her stance makes her seem foolish. Much is made of her unhappy position. Her unpleasant cousin has inherited both the title and the estate and wants Delia out of Faircroft as soon as possible. She is responsible for her somewhat ditzy aunt, a delightful character clearly devised to add humor to the tale. Her cousin will obviously dismiss all the loyal family servants for whom no provision has been made and who will thus be dependent on Delia. Her cousin controls her dowry and is trying to force her to marry a very unpleasant local lord. And she has still another dependent who desperately needs her support.

Having set up Delia’s circumstances to be so desperate, Metzger then has her heroine regularly reject Ty’s offers because she insists that she will only marry for love. It’s not as if Ty is an unattractive suitor. He’s handsome, he’s honorable, he’s rich, and he’s the heir to an earldom. OK, he doesn’t have much experience wooing women and he’s not much in touch with his own feelings. But Delia’s constant refusals simply don’t make sense. She doesn’t have a whole lot of options.

Everything else about A Debt to Delia is quite good. As mentioned above, the book deals with some more serious matters than many of Metzger’s novels and deals with them nicely. Especially poignant is the helplessness of women without family or money and the unforgiving attitude of towards those who stray. But there is also a nice balance of humor as well, especially the behavior of Diablo, Ty’s horse, who certainly fits his name.

Here’s where I commit the cardinal sin of reviewers: if only the author had not made Delia’s circumstances so dire, then this would have been a book that I could easily recommend to Regency lovers. But I have to review the book that is, and thus I must reluctantly consider A Debt to Delia simply acceptable.

--Jean Mason

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home