A Lady's Mischief
by Barbara Pierce, historical (2001)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7089-6

Rayne Wyman was buried alive when he was fifteen years old. Two grave robbers became his unwitting saviors. Yet instead of rejoicing when he stumbles his way back home, his family has been treating him like he was the demon incarnate. The ton calls him Le Cadivre Raffiné ("the refined corpse"), and poor Rayne, he just have to be a professional surgeon to complete the Dr Death image. Forget Mary Shelley's Frankenstein monster, Rayne Wyman is here.

Uhm... will it ruin my gentlewoman demeanor to say that I'm half in love already? Yes, yes, I'm morbid. Anyone mentioned David Boreanaz? Oh drool.

One night fifteen years later Rayne gets an unexpected visitor. She's Devona Bedegrayne, and she will not let Rayne's ignoring her notes or Rayne's gargoyle manservant stand in her way. She needs Rayne's help, and she will get it. See, she blames herself for a foolish idiot friend of hers who has gotten himself in deep, deep cesspit stuff. The guy gets into some bad dealings and he will now hang. Devona believes that Rayne can help resuscitate poor Doran after the latter's hanging. It's been done before. Rayne can do it... right?

Yes, Devona is one of the less intelligent of heroines, but I guess when it comes to Regency-era romance, it can't be helped that more often than not the heroines have the intelligence of a chamber pot. Still, she is the first woman to treat Rayne like an equal, a human being, and Rayne, on his part, is captivated. He even hears wedding bells in the distant. Seriously, he does. But he figures he needs a bit of deviousness here, so he proposes a fake engagement plan in return for his help.

He tells her that the engagement to her will help him fit in with the Ton all over again. Devona agrees, and they're on their way.

Actually, that's not all. There's a lot of other things going on, really, and I'm not sure how to fit them in this summary. I'll just list some: Rayne's problems with his mother and sister, Devona's problems with Doran and the man's family, and oh, don't forget the obligatory who-wants-to-kill-our-lovebirds angle (clue: Devona has another nice gentle male friend, hint, hint). But I never do get the feeling of being overwhelmed by the activities running all over the place here. Instead, I have a wonderful time.

After all, Rayne is adorable. He's the quissential dark hero, with baggage, but not to the point of overwhelming the story with his self-pity. In fact, what self-pity? Rayne has a sense of humor, he is noble, and he's in love with his woman. No, what's not to love? Devona, despite her tendency to shoulder the blame for all that's wrong with the world on her dainty shoulders, is also funny, quirky but not ditzy, and a match for Rayne. In fact, Rayne and Devona remind me a lot of those old Amanda Quick bantering couples. They have their differences, but they become friends and allies against a common enemy soon enough. And it's fun.

What I don't like is how the author treats guilt like war scars. For a while, it seems as if there's a competition going to see who can feel guilty more, Rayne or Devona. Sister sad? My bad. Friend sad? My bad. Boyfriend sad? My bad too. Girlfriend sad? It's all my fault. It's a good thing the author stops this nonsense midway through the story, otherwise I would be using this book as toilet paper. Yes, I find their behavior that annoying.

But what's left is fun, bubbly, lightweight funny-Regency romance at its finest. Repartee, humor, and some sexy stuff - yup, all's here, and what a good thing it is.

Rating: 94

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