Overly cute little comedy from across the pond about a grifter selling a British title to several people simultaneously.
Clive is a rogue, cad, scam artist and bona fide Lord of the British realm. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, he not only bought his own title at auction but picked up an extra one, Lord of Hexcombe manor, and decided to peddle it to unsuspecting Americans. His girl Friday in this endeavor is Jane Strachey, whom Clive sends over to England to look over the grounds he believes they’ll inherit (once one of them, that is, wins the Lordship at auction). Among those tromping through the isolated countryside with Strachey are Lincoln Deane, clueless owner of a California vineyard; gangster Frankie di Stefano; the Nibbets, a doofus-y couple; and Mr. Delarme, a preacher of the Old Testament variety. The catch is that Clive is going to sell the Lordship, and sell it to several people at once, then duck out of sight to leave Strachey holding the bag. Clive works the strings from back in America—where he’s not so secretly carrying on with Lincoln Deane’s status-climbing wife—trusting that Strachey will take care of everything. And it’s Strachey who proves to be the novel’s fatal flaw. James, a cult British crime author, has created in her a character who’s supposedly a brainy beauty, able to think on her feet and maneuver well in all sorts of strange situations. But he chains her to Clive, a charmless goon who’s absent for a good deal of the time and never once appears to be the kind of man who could string a woman like this along. The rest is not only equally implausible, but just plain dull. With a setup rich for comic exaggeration, almost none of it is exploited.
Limp and soggy material from an author less likely to be as successful in America as at home.