A Diamond in the Rough requires a willing suspension of disbelief. The reader must be willing to accept that the hero could spend hours each day in the presence of the heroine and not realize that his supposed caddy is really the entrancing young woman he has met at a number of social engagements. If one is willing to suspend disbelief - and this reader cheerfully did so - then one will certainly enjoy this tale of romance on the links.
Viscount Marquand finds himself in a very difficult situation. His irresponsible father has lost the family estate at the very moment that he has become engaged to one of London’s reigning beauties. Well, he hasn’t exactly lost Woolsey Hall; the Marquess of Hertford will forego his prize and all the other vowels that the Earl of Chittenden has lost if the Viscount can best him at a game of golf at St. Andrews links.
Adrian, Viscount Marquand has spent much of his life trying to overcome the failings of his parents. He has carefully husbanded his resources and added to them by engaging in the ungentlemanly profession of landscape design. His own rectitude has allowed him to win the hand (at least) of the lovely Honoria Dunster (not a Lady, I fear, since her father is a mere baron.) But will lady’s ambitious father accept a viscount without a family estate to call his own? Thus, Adrian has no choice but to accept the nasty Hertford’s challenge. So he takes himself off to Scotland to master the game of golf. How difficult can it be to place a small ball in a small hole?
Since Hertford has made himself generally detested in the environs of St. Andrews and since Adrian’s friend is a respected golfer, the legendary teacher and club maker Hugh Philp agrees to help the viscount learn the game. But if Adrian is to succeed, he needs the best caddy available; he needs “Dirty Derry,” a young fellow with a canny knowledge of both the game and the course.
But “Dirty Derry” is not a young fellow at all. Rather he - or should I say she - is Miss Derrien Edwards, the niece of a respected widow of a respected member of the faculty at the local university. Derrien has no love for English lords; her mother had been seduced and abandoned by one such fellow. But she respects Hugh and hates Hertford. Therefore she agrees to try to help the viscount learn the game of golf.
Adrian finds that golf is not such a simple game as he thought. He also finds his caddy both knowledgeable and lacking in respect. As he moves in local society, he meets Miss Derrien Edwards who initially is equally disrespectful. However, the discovery of a shared passion for garden design leads both to change their initial opinions of the other. When his fiancée and her family arrive to offer their support, he begins to doubt his decision to wed a proper young lady.
Pickens has created two unusual characters. Neither Adrian nor Derrien fit the narrow preconceptions of acceptable behavior that governs society. But while the former seeks to maintain the pretense of respectability, the latter is much more willing to challenge existing stereotypes, even though the options for bright, capable, athletic women are much more constraining.
Pickens provides, in addition to her romance, a fascinating look at the game of golf in its infancy. She herself clearly knows and loves the game, but while her description of golf in its earlier incarnation adds to the story, it does not overshadow the romance or the characters. All, both primary and secondary, are very well drawn. And if we just know the outcome of that final game - this is after all a romance novel - we are nevertheless caught up in the competition and kept on tenterhooks as to how virtue will win out in the end.