A Perilous Attraction

A Scandalous Situation

 
A Treacherous Proposition
by Patricia Frances Rowell
(Harl. Hist, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0373-29364-X
***
As in many Regency era stories, this one involves an Earl who is in the “service of their country” in a clandestine way and a damsel who is in distress. Their nemesis is a spy named Deimos whose actual identity is unknown, thus making everyone suspects. The central issue in the romance, therefore, is trust. Can true love endure without trust?

Diana Corby is widowed one night in the presence of three gentlemen. She and her two children are destitute because her husband was well loved but a spendthrift of the worst kind. When he gets himself killed because he was unable to keep secrets, Diana also has to contend with the fear of said killer thinking she knows something she shouldn’t. To add to the situation, Diana has been receiving blackmail notes because of her past from a man who signs his letters “Deimos” and she must ensure Selena and Bytham, both under age 7, are cared for in case he makes good his threat and turns her in to the magistrate.

One of the three gentlemen is Lord Vincent Londsdale, a rather mysterious man who had always been a friend of Wyn Corby. He has also secretly harbored feelings for Diana. Now that Wyn is out of the way, Vincent is determined to protect her and convince her to see him in a different light. Yet Vincent has secrets and cannot commit to a long-term relationship. He was a reprobate until a few years ago, and inherited the title when his eight-year-old brother ran away and purportedly drowned. Now Vincent is knee deep in spy business and has an enemy named Deimos.

Lonsdale takes Diana and her children under his wing and they begin an adventure that involves false identities, visiting different estates in the country, a cast of characters who may or may not be friendly, attempts on their lives and a kind of coming of age story as both Vincent and Diana discover their strengths. While the story itself is rather engaging, partly due to all the goings-on, the two main characters leave something to be desired.

Diana is the worst. On the one hand, she has been living in genteel poverty and has been resourceful enough to make ends meet. On the other hand, she is threatened by a rather silly situation, that once revealed, showed how naďve and easily manipulated she really is. Even on the surface, she allows Vincent to just sweep her away in the guise of protecting her and off she goes, not trusting him and yet never really questioning why she goes along with him. She is something of a doormat until she has to defend her children.

Vincent is one of those heroes who assume that just because he was irresponsible in his youth, he is forever less than good. Despite five years of making amends, he still feels he is unworthy. He is high-handed, even using crooked dice to ensure that Diana comes with him. He is attracted and wants her in his bed, all the while lamenting that he cannot make it permanent because of his past.

To make matters worse, they do not trust each other. They even know that each is keeping secrets from the other and yet, their attraction is too strong. Once they become lovers, they keep up the pretense of propriety in public, yet everyone knows what is going on. And still they do not talk and share their secrets.

Having said all that, there is just enough action to keep things lively. There are just enough glimpses of the type of hero that Vincent could be to keep the reader entertained. And even Diana has her moments. Charles and Catherine from A Perilous Attraction make an appearance for those who read that tale. The children are true to life and the servants are loyal to the core. Much of this is formula, but well written formula.

Despite some misgivings and an inconsistently enchanting hero and heroine, A Treacherous Proposition is an acceptable story for Regency fans.

Shirley Lyons

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