The Gallant Guardian

My Wayward Lady

My Lady Nightingale
by Evelyn Richardson
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19858-1
After five years fighting in the Peninsula, Lord Christian Haverleigh is back in London. His first stop is his brother's mansion on Grosvenor Square. The Duke of Warminster is not there, but Christian is happy to see his two young nieces, who greet him joyfully. He's also astonished to overhear their music teacher, Mademoiselle Isobel de Montargis, singing an aria with exquisite precision. Isobel is less than thrilled to be spied upon by this brash Englishman while she was engrossed in her music, but decides to shrug it off. She needs the income too badly to offend the brother of her employer.

Isobel's father, the Duc de Montargis, is an expatriate French nobleman, landed in England after the revolution. Since the death of his wife, he has settled in London, where he dreams of returning to his former glory and thoroughly disapproves of Isobel's interest in music. His plan is to return to France when it is safe, where Isobel will find a suitable husband among the French nobility, not some ragtag parvenue of an English nobleman whose title and fortune are not nearly as ancient as the de Montargis.'

Christopher can't get the lovely Frenchwoman out of his mind, and is soon inquiring about music lessons for her with a famous teacher. Isobel's desire to train her voice and become the toast of the opera world rivals her reluctance to become attached or indebted to this man. And her father schemes in the background.

That's about the sum total of the plot.

I could never work up more than the merest glimmer of interest in this story, and the romance between Christopher and Isobel was all but nonexistent. The author uses long narrative passages to flesh out the story; I learned plenty about the French Revolution and how Isobel's family had fled France -- it went on for pages. A heavy emphasis on telling rather than showing, coupled with fairly wooden dialog, made this a ponderous read at best and one I cannot recommend. I never felt that I climbed inside either Christopher's or Isobel's heads -- at the end of the story, they were still virtual strangers to me.

So, why the two hearts? Well, the writing is technically good, and the background was interesting. As a romance, though, My Lady Nightingale felt sadly lacking.

--Cathy Sova

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