The Very Comely Countess
by Miranda Jarrett, historical (2001)
Sonnett, $6.50, ISBN 0-7434-1793-3
One of the staple elements in a Regency era historical is the universal disdain of the hero, the heroine, and the reader for all those frivolous, fashion-mad shallow dandies and ninnies of the Ton. But when a story is too concerned about fashion, the weather, Vauxhall, and everything but the intrigue and fake mistress plot it all but forgets, well, shall I feel disdainful then of this story? Miranda Jarrett has written what is best described as a tourist brochure to Regency Times with a few annoying plot things towards the end. The author writes her socks off trying to sound like Kasey Michaels or Edith Layton, and to a point she succeeds, but really, something happen in this story, dammit!
William Manderville, the Earl of Bonnington et cetera, is a dandified gentleman who moonlights as a spy for the government. Really, Scarlet Pimpernel has a lot to answer for - look at those copycats he spawned. Gah. Will's mode of operation is that he always bring a mistress, pretend or not, along a "fun trip" abroad, when in truth he is gathering information for his employers. After a recent debacle, he finds himself in need of a woman. By luck, his best friend's new wife (read The Very Daring Duchess) painted a lovely woman that captivated him. He must find this woman...
... Who turns out to be Harriet Treene, an orange seller and pie maker. She may be a mere commoner, but she won't spread though even if Will is the prettiest dandy she has ever seen. She decides to sit in and pose for the Duchess of Harborough (the painter woman mentioned above), much to the disapproval of her sister and brother-in-law, but to Will's delight. He will slowly make her see things his way.
And then we have shopping. Tea parties. Shopping. Harriet protests that she cannot receive those lovely gowns (of course, of course, but she accepts them anyway, poor thing). Tea parties. A visit to some nice place in London. More tea parties. Shopping again.
How's the weather in London? Darned cold because I think I have acute rigor mortis already.
There's some subplot about a mad, bad French dude who wants Will badly injured or better still, dead, because Will killed this froggie's son. But that's, of course, after more shopping and tea parties and discreet kisses and gropes in Vauxhall or something. Maybe after a nice long nap, Sleeping Beauty style, I will bring myself to care. As it is, I'm very bored by all this tiny little episodes of non-happening storms in tiny, cute, clean teacups. Someone set a serial killer loose in this story now.
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