A Kind and Decent Man

Mr. Trelawney's Proposal

The Silver Squire by Mary Brendan
(Harlequin Regency, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-51166-3
The Silver Squire is the sequel to Brendan’s A Kind and Decent Man. The hero and heroine of this story were obviously secondary characters in the previous book, although I have to admit that I don’t really remember Emma Worthington or Richard Du Quesne very well. Clearly the two did not get along very well when they met three years before this book begins. Emma objected to Richard’s well deserved reputation as a rake. I gather that Emma made her disdain known, but that Richard found her acerbic remarks a nice change from the fawning misses of the ton who were willing to overlook his reputation thanks to his fortune.

As The Silver Squire (the nickname refers to Richard’s gray eyes and blond hair) begins, Emma finds herself in a most unfortunate position. Her father, a reckless gambler, is one step away from debtor’s prison when salvation appears in the person of Jarrett Dashwood. Dashwood has a very bad reputation and is looking to improve his social standing by marrying a genteel woman of spotless character. Bookish Emma, twenty-seven and clearly on the shelf, meets his requirements and he has promised to pay Mr. Worthington’s debts if he can marry the daughter.

Emma is well aware of Dashwood’s odious character and refuses the match. Fearful that her parents, especially her unpleasant mother, will succeed by foul means to accomplish their goal, she flees to Bath where she hopes a man whom she admired but refused (I think) earlier is still interested in marrying her. Bath just happens to be the home of Sir Richard and the two meet each other in a most unusual fashion. (Emma is applying for the position of companion to Richard’s latest mistress.)

Realizing that the woman whom he almost offered for three years earlier and whom he has never forgotten is in some kind of trouble, Richard tries to discover her problem and offer assistance. But Emma, for reasons that are never made clear, refuses to explain why she is in Bath alone and clearly in economic distress. Richard jumps to the conclusion that Emma is “in the family way” and Emma refuses to disabuse him of his mistake. Believing that Emma is “ruined,” Richard begins by offering her his “protection.” But when Emma rejects his offer, he still helps her by taking her to his home where she can be chaperoned by his mother.

This book didn’t work for me, largely because of Emma’s behavior. I could begin with the litany of what I found to be her foolish actions with her decision to flee to Bath. Why didn’t she go to her dear friend Victoria, who would have happily given her refuge? When she met Sir Richard, why did she allow him to believe that she was pregnant and then, having done so, why was she surprised at his behavior? Why did she remain suspicious even when he had taken her to his home? It seemed like her actions and reactions were based more on the demands of the plot than on the heroine’s character.

Indeed, Emma’s continues to act foolishly throughout the book. I ended up wondering why a man who seemed as reasonably intelligent as Sir Richard was attracted to her in the first place.

Perhaps my standards for heroines are too high, but I prefer them to exhibit at least a modicum of good sense if I am to enjoy a book. Emma did not meet my standard or even come close. Hence, I must warn readers to “think twice” before they embark on The Silver Squire.

--Jean Mason

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