Much slighter and even frothier than Louisa Brancusi (1980), Husted's latest returns to the 19th-century theater for a jolly little blend of backstage comedy and unpredictable romance. The stage daughter is Emma Fitzhugh, illegitimate offspring of Mrs. Sylvia Fitzhugh--one of 1818 London's favorite comediennes. Mrs. F., however, is vain, egomaniacal, spendthrifty, and determined to do tragedy--so she commissions drunken playwright Ian McCorckle to pen her a vehicle in verse. . . which turns out to be the hilariously dreadful Vanessa, or The Savage Princess of Thebes. (""I bare my bosom, I expose my heart!/Oh! Where is poison? Oh, Where's a dart?"") Furthermore, Mrs. F. wants there to be a role--a small role, mind you--for daughter Emma's debut in Vanessa. But Emma, though similar to her Austen-ian namesake in many ways, would rather settle down as a wife; and she is smitten with handsome young James Bosden. . . till she realizes that he's courting her to be his mistress, not his bride. Eventually, however, sweet-tough Emma will get the right man--as well as the truth about her mysterious, supposedly blue-blooded birth. Droll stuff, if perhaps not quite lacy enough to please some Regency regulars.