The Christmas Carrolls

Lord Heartless

Miss Lockhart's Letters

Miss Treadwell’s Talent
by Barbara Metzger
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19816-6
One of the greatest fears of Regency romance fans when Fawcett closed down the Regency line was that some of their fine authors would be lost to us. Thank heavens Signet saw the chance to add to its already excellent list of authors by signing some of Fawcett’s best. It is perhaps fitting that the first author to “cross over” should be Barbara Metzger, whose delightfully humorous romances have a large following. Her fans will not be disappointed by her first Signet Regency.

In a Metzger Regency, the plot is always secondary to the characters. Not that there is anything wrong with her plots; they are as good as most in the genre. But the plot primarily exists so that Metzger can fill her pages with the most delightfully idiosyncratic people.

To briefly summarize the plot of Miss Treadwell’s Talent: Maylene Treadwell is the daughter of a now happily deceased lord who left his family in penury. She and her mother, Lady Tremont, eke out an existence on the fringes of the ton thanks to her mother’s special gifts. Lady Tremont is a medium who, through the person of her contact Max, can bring news of the dear departed to their grieving relatives. Part of Lady Tremont’s success can be attributed to her daughter’s genius for discovering relevant information from her sources. Maylene has also used her sharp mind to find a number of missing objects. Lady Tremont insists that finding lost things and person’s is Maylene’s special talent.

Miss Treadwell has been given an interesting assignment: she has been asked to find a missing heir to a dukedom because of her success in other searches. An even more intriguing case also comes her way when the Duke of Mondale asks her to find his missing daughter Belinda. Accompanying the duke to the Treadwell home is Belinda’s soon-to-be affianced husband, Socrates, Earl of Hyatt.

While the duke is charmed by Lady Tremont and comforted by her reassurances that Belinda is unharmed (so Max tells her), Hyatt is sure that the whole business is a hum and that the Treadwell ladies are nothing but charlatans out to fleece his friend. But he is surprisingly taken by the forthright and outspoken Miss Treadwell who, unlike the young ladies of the ton, does not throw herself at his head. For a man known to society as “the Ideal,” this is a new experience.

Maylene is a delightful heroine. No raving beauty and dowerless, she has reached the advanced age of twenty-one without a suitor, except for her unpleasant cousin who wants her house. She is clearly the brains behind the Treadwell operation and is a paragon of good sense compared with the other characters in the book.

There is the dull-witted viscount who comes to Lady Tremont’s seances so that his mumsie can continue to tell him what to do. There is the widow whose main purpose seems to be to make sure that her missing husband is in fact dead. There is the one-legged veteran who is worried that his leg won’t be united with his body in the great beyond. There is the elderly lord who is searching for his missing terrier. Add to this mix a dotty clergyman who spends his time (when he’s not eating in the kitchen) warning all passers by of the evil that the Treadwell’s are about in not letting the dead rest in peace. In other words, there are Metzger’s usual suspects, all of whom make this book a funny read.

The romance between Maylene and Soc is delightfully spirited. Soc alternately finds himself charmed by this very unusual young woman and appalled by her unconventional behavior. His attraction even survives a dunking in the pond in Hyde Park.

Lighthearted, witty and fun. These words sum up Miss Treadwell’s Talent. Metzger writes the best humorous Regencies around. The Regency genre would be much poorer without her delightful books.

--Jean Mason

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