Double Deception

An Inconvenient Wife

The Lady in Gray

Scandalous Secrets

An Unsuitable Match

Lady Jane’s Nemesis by Patricia Oliver
(Signet, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-20069-1
Those who have read my reviews know about my pick up/put down test. If I find myself unwilling to put a book down, then I inevitably recommend it, even if further analysis indicates certain problems and inconsistencies in the plot. Lady Jane’s Nemesis passed my pick up/put down test. I read in one sitting, more or less, and found myself admiring and liking the characters, especially the heroine. Yet, there were these niggling problems with the characters’ behavior and motivations. Let me try to explain.

Lady Jane Sinclair, daughter of the Earl of Penhallow, has reached the ripe old age of 25, having never had a London season or a suitor. The reason is that when she was born, her father and his best friend, the Marquess of Trenton had made a match between the infant and Trenton’s young son Roger. Jane had never objected to the arrangement or to her quiet life. She had devoted her life to cataloging and illustrating the wildflowers of her native shire. But then, one day as she is searching for a specimen, she comes across a couple engaged in amorous activity. She recognizes the beauteous and scandalous Lady Horton and her erstwhile fiancé.

Jane informs her father that she wishes to go to London and perhaps find a husband there. This request forces the issue of the longstanding arrangement. The financial circumstances of the Trenton family have gotten even worse and the marquess orders his son to settle the matter and propose to Jane.

Roger is enthralled by the sensuous Lady Horton, a widow who managed to marry a very old second husband. The situation is made more complex when Maud informs him that she is pregnant and, given her husband’s incapacity, the child is undoubtedly Roger’s. But needs must, and Roger does his duty and proposes to Jane. Jane accepts him; she has loved him since childhood and always believed she would be his wife. But she makes one condition. Roger must give up Lady Horton immediately and promise to remain faithful. Somewhat to his own surprise, Roger concurs. But Jane knows that Lady Horton will be her nemesis and will cause her problems, although she has no idea of exactly how great these problems will be.

Lady Jane’s Nemesis is, in some ways, a traditional “marriage of convenience” story. Roger and Jane must find true love after the wedding. The presence of Lady Horton in the neighborhood and her machinations make things more difficult for the two, but have the unexpected benefit of opening Roger’s eyes to the true character of his former mistress. Jane’s actions, which show amazing generosity of spirit, lead Roger to understand how fortunate he is in his wife.

Jane is a most admirable heroine; indeed, some readers may find her generosity to her rival almost too good to be true. But I found her actions quite in character and perfectly understandable. She has married a man who, she believes, is enamored of another woman, and her insecurities, even in the face of his much improved behavior, make sense.

What were the “niggling problems” that I mentioned above? Mostly they have to do with developments at the end of the book, which seem just a bit convoluted and contrived. Also, it seemed to me that Roger showed too much “male obtuseness” when it came to understanding his true feelings about his wife. Indeed, I can only conclude that Roger’s characterization was another of my “niggling” problems with Lady Jane’s Nemesis. Perhaps the best way to describe me reaction to him is that he never seemed heroic enough, that he didn’t capture my imagination.

Still, all in all, I enjoyed Lady Jane’s Nemesis, primarily I believe because I liked Jane so much. I believe that all those readers who share my fondness for “marriage of convenience” stories will also enjoy this Regency romance.

--Jean Mason

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