Tagan’s (A Question of Class, 2014) lively romance, set in London in 1808, has a young woman falling for the man pursuing her guardian’s daughter.
Her actor father having abandoned her when she was 12, Harriet Farley is now the ward of Eleanor, Duchess of Dorset. Eleanor’s daughter, Lady Marianne, awaits a marriage proposal from William Talbot, Earl of Abingdon, who’s researching a cure for malaria. Harriet meets a potential suitor of hers, Mr. Hopplehill, handpicked by the duchess, but he’s middle-aged, balding and small in stature. Harriet flees to her host’s study, where she encounters William engaging in animated conversation with his sister about the theater. Later, Adam Rousby, a friend of her father’s, informs Harriet of her father’s troubles: He may be bound for debtors prison. Although initially reluctant, Harriet agrees to go to Birmingham to see him, though any association with the theater, and the trip itself, are deemed inappropriate. It is agreed William will travel with her—he’s to confer with a colleague in the area—chaperoned by Mrs. Entwhistle, William’s former nursemaid. The trip is marked by various calamities, including a barn fire and an assault by thieves, although Mrs. Entwhistle, who may have gone round the bend, is having the time of her life. With nowhere to stay, the group stops at a lord’s home and, at his request, performs Shakespeare’s As You Like It with Harriet, an impressive Rosalind and William, a tolerable Orlando. Impulsively, he kisses her on stage, but they both know a long-term relationship is out of the question. The novel has typical Regency elements—a strong, spirited heroine, class distinctions and manners, and mystery—and some racy scenes. William’s medical research and Harriet’s theater expertise combine in clever ways, adding dimension to their mutual attraction. Clearly, Marianne, although pretty, is no intellectual match for William, while Harriet’s intelligence and insights, and her physicality, stir William’s desire. It’s a sparkling romance and road trip, a satisfying read with delightful surprises along the way.
Enchanting Regency romance with affable central characters that tastefully blends sex with essentials of the genre.