Lord Pierson Reforms features that most uninteresting of Regency heroes: he who is completely infatuated with some beautiful, but shrewish, blue-blood and is unable to ascertain her true nature because he’s blinded by her looks. And the fact that this very same plot device showed up in two Regencies in a row didn’t help my mood.
Dante Delacourt, Viscount Pierson, is staggering down a London street late one night, drunk, held up by two tavern whores to whom he’s promised some money if they’ll help him get home. He stumbles and lands in the gutter just as a passing carriage showers him with muck. Dante looks up to behold a vision in the carriage window – a beautiful blonde, smiling at him radiantly. An angel, Dante thinks. He must find her. For her, he will reform and become a paragon of society, ready to shoulder his responsibilities.
The blonde is Lady Rowena Revington, spoiled daughter of a duke. Rowena is a sharp-tongued harpy who manipulates men for her own selfish reasons, mainly to thwart her father’s plan to marry her off. The “radiant smile” was Rowena laughing in gleeful derision at the site of some poor sot covered in mud and filth. Hilarious! Her companion, Miss Amy Corbett, doesn’t think so and is horrified at Rowena’s reaction. Poor man, Amy thinks.
Amy, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, has been hired as a matchmaker and chaperone by the Duke of Revington. Her charge is to get Rowena married off to an acceptable man before the end of the Season, or the nasty-tempered Duke will turn her out without a reference. Amy, an orphan, will be left homeless. And Rowena isn’t making things any easier with her hair-trigger temper and angelic looks.
Dante and his friend Lord Bainbridge run into Rowena at a ball and she, of course, doesn’t remember him. But he might be amusing, so she snares him easily and dangles him on a string. Dante is besotted. Bainbridge is unimpressed and sees through Rowena immediately. Amy is attracted to Dante, but knows he is out of her reach. Dante is determined to pursue Rowena. The stage is set.
Unfortunately, Dante and Bainbridge are playing the wrong roles. Dante pines for Rowena while noticing rather absently that Amy is a nice young lady and a good sport. Bainbridge refuses to let Rowena sink her claws into his friend, and he sets out to spike her guns, so to speak. Amy is wistful. It’s boring.
It’s never a good sign when the reader is mentally re-writing the story to make it more interesting. Amy and Dante generate no heat whatsoever, and his sudden revelation that it’s really Amy he loves is completely unbelievable. Bainbridge, easily the most interesting character in the story, schemes in the background. I really wanted him to shove Dante stage left and take over the story, but Amy is such a milksop that she’d be no match for him anyway. To the author’s credit, Rowena is given enough motivation that it’s almost easy to forgive her actions. An intelligent, free-spirited young woman, chafing under her father’s autocratic thumb, might well act as she does given her resources and ability to get away with it. So the secondary romance ends up being the most believable and enjoyable part of the story.
Dante, on the other hand, isn’t nearly a strong enough character to carry the story. When we meet him, he’s willingly drinking and whoring his life away. Not impressive. Then he decides to clean up his act because of a face at the window. Uh huh. Then he finds the face, and he’s so determined that she’s The One that he can’t bother to look beneath the surface. He’ll happily marry her anyway. Well, that’s just ducky for Dante, but I wasn’t interested in spending my reading time watching him try to grow up.
Amy is, unfortunately, no better. A poor orphan who wants to earn enough money to buy a little cottage and live as a seamstress, but the mean duke will fire her unless she completes an impossible quest? This is noble pathos by the bucketload. It may have been intended as a foil for over-the-top Rowena, but it just made Rowena stand out in glorious Technicolor while Amy faded into black-and-white. And while Amy doesn’t snivel, she spends way too much of the book gazing wistfully at Dante, instead of bothering to wonder why she’d be attracted to a man who can’t tell a saint from a shrew.
Lord Pierson does reform, not that I cared. Read this book for the amusing secondary characters. They’re worth your time. As for Lord Pierson and his eventual lady, they’re more likely to make your eyes glaze over.