In the hands of Nicole Byrd, this story of burgeoning love between old friends becomes a pleasurable visit to the England of 1822. Lady in Waiting is a prime example of a Regency-set romance done well, with personable characters, intrigue, and a lovely secondary romance adding spice to the mix.
Circe is a free spirit, more interested in her work and growth as an artist than in any man. But when David, Earl of Westbury comes calling with a proposition, she accepts. David has known Circe for years, though she has recently been living a somewhat Bohemian life on the Continent.
She now returns to London to enjoy her societal debut. Her older sister, Psyche, is married to David’s best friend, Gabriel, making Circe a seemingly safe choice for David to “court” in order to placate his mother, who is determined to see David wed as soon as possible.
He strikes a bargain with Circe but gets much more than he bargained for in return. Circe agrees to help David in a courting ruse, but it so happens that she has long harbored tender feelings for him, and this is partly her motivation for accepting. However he is older and more worldly--she feels he is unattainable. Not to mention that his current standing as a notorious gad-about leaves her cold.
David has his own reasons for resisting a lasting relationship with any woman, but the newly matured and independent Circe fascinates him. Both become involved in a dangerous situation, which adds perilous adventure to the plot. There is more to both David and Circe than the other realizes, and as their story unfolds their discovery of one another is good fun.
This plot, while entertaining enough, is not the primary reason to recommend this book. Rather it is the manner in which the story is told. The author’s respect for the era is apparent in the dialogue and the mannerisms of the characters. There is no rushing through to the inevitable conclusion. The events and relationships go along at a leisurely pace well suited to this time period, lending veracity to the story.
While no claim can be made that Lady in Waiting is overly sensuous, it does not lack for more subtle romantic situations. The telling look and lingering touch are used skillfully, conveying an undercurrent of passions held in check. I confess that I enjoyed the secondary romance just as much as the primary one here. An older woman with a very sweet younger man…and a horticultural expert, no less…be still my heart!
This book has much to admire, and perhaps it will be most pleasing to readers who appreciate the sheer romance of this particular time in history. It’s a treat to glimpse the nuances of the characters’ lives. So, brew a cup of tea, sit back, tell the butler you are “not at home to callers” and enjoy Lady in Waiting.
Better yet…let the butler bring the tea!
For more about the mother/daughter team writing as Nicole Byrd, see the “New Faces” interview (#70) from May 2000.