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Dangerous Lady by Amanda Scott
(Zebra, $5.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6113-7
***
Letty Deverill, daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Jervaulx, has been appointed a maid of honor to the young Queen Victoria. Although a great privilege, it is also a position fraught with uncertainty. Queen Victoria decidedly favors the Whig party, and has filled her court with Whig ladies. Only when she was politically pressured to appoint a Tory maid of honor, does she grudgingly select Letty.

Therefore, Letty's prospects at court seem about as welcoming as Daniel's in the lion's den. When she is not coldly ignored, she is snubbed; however, Letty is nothing if not plucky. Soon her spirited, unconventional ways are noticed by Justin, Viscount Raventhorpe, lord-in-waiting and the richest man in London. Though Justin is a Whig opposed to the Tories, he finds Letty quite lovely, if too headstrong for a female. He endeavors to advise her how to behave and survive at court. Though Letty finds him handsome, she detests his overbearing male interference.

Letty and Justin are also drawn together by an unusual inheritance. Justin has inherited the bulk of a cousin's estate, making him wealthy beyond imagining. But Letty has also inherited a grand house in Mayfair, already occupied by two eccentric elderly ladies. At first Justin is thunderstruck why this almost unknown female should receive the plum prize of his inheritance; later he is outraged when Letty intends to take charge of her own business affairs, which he considers highly irregular. However, she is determined to prove herself capable, and lets the arrogant lord know that his help is unwanted.

Inevitably, problems mount. Letty's tenants are not quite the harmless, sweet old ladies they first appear. I cannot disclose the nature of their ventures, but their situation quickly becomes precarious, demanding Letty's assistance. And at court, there are political plots and machinations which put innocent Letty smack in the middle of danger. Justin, who has always planned on marrying a proper, obedient wife, finds himself instead increasingly drawn to Letty, whom he deems an impudent chit. But when chaos erupts, arrogant lord and impudent chit must unite their forces, working together to save the day.

Dangerous Lady is a crisply written, well-plotted novel, two things which recommend it very much. Though the dialogue lacks a certain sparkle, it is still smart and readable. The hero and heroine are quite adequate in their roles; though Justin's character could be more fleshed out, and Letty's is so bright and chipper it almost defies belief. But given the superficial emotional range of the Dangerous Lady, neither bothered me overmuch. I was bothered that Letty would "chuckle" so frequently, often at nothing particularly humorous Scott's overuse of the verb really began to grate, making Letty seem less an ingenue and more of a demented old elf.

Although Dangerous Lady takes place well after the Regency period, it still has a strong Regency flavor. Amanda Scott has done her historical homework well on the early days of Victoria's reign (a list of references in the back is always an encouraging sign), and may please readers who are especially fond of history and court intrigue.

In keeping with the Regency style, however, Dangerous Lady has no sex betwixt the hero and heroine. Well, there are two kisses whilst standing up and fully clothed, and some implication of marital bliss in the epilogue. This story would be a disappointment to those who prefer historical romances sensual and spicy, but it would be a safe, inoffensive read for my conservative grandm'ma.

In short, Dangerous Lady is a pleasant, readable novel, but nothing very memorable.

--Meredith Moore


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