Miss Richardson Comes of Age

My Lady Governess

Rules of Marriage

The Trouble With Harriet

The Viscount's Bride

The Wagered Wife

Willed to Wed

The Willful Miss Winthrop

The Lady and the Footman
by Wilma Counts
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7719-X
The characters in this book are so excruciatingly familiar that an even more appropriate title might have been The Recycled Regency. Apparently, the author was bored with these walking clichés, as well, because she couldn’t seem to think of anything for them to do.

When someone tries to abduct Lady Allyson Crossleigh in the middle of London, in broad daylight, she is shaken but considers it a “minor incident.” Especially since her attackers are driven off by a tall man dressed like a dockworker who disappeared in the ensuing hubbub.

The ‘dockworker,’ of course, is actually Captain Lord Nathan Christopher Thornton, younger son of a duke and younger brother of a marquis. Recovering from battle wounds received on the Peninsula, Nathan has been seconded to the Foreign Office in London where he has been working for Allyson’s father, the Earl of Rutherford.

The earl is concerned for his family’s safety, as he has war information he believes the French would dearly love to get their hands on, so he orders Nathan to act as Allyson’s bodyguard. Unfortunately, Allyson is a spoiled 24-going-on-14 twit who carries a pistol in her reticule and believes she can take care of herself. As a result, her father must hide the fact that she now has a bodyguard by having Captain Lord Nathan Thornton work as a footman in his household. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that the earl’s wife and married daughter might require similar protection.

Leaving no Regency romance cliché unexplored, Allyson is also a crusader who, along with one of her friends, occasionally rescues young women from the clutches of London’s whoremongers.

The problems with this book are numerous and fundamental – which is particularly disappointing from an author who can usually be depended on to provide better entertainment.

The hero and heroine are cardboard cutouts. If you’ve read more than a couple of Regencies, you’ve met these characters before. At the denouement, which I believe was intended to be dramatic, I didn’t know or care about either of them enough to get the slightest bit excited about their fate.

Adding insult to injury, Allyson makes friends with a young ghost, whose presence in the book is clunky, and serves no purpose other than to make Allyson look like a twit. No matter how many times Maryvictoria Elizabeth appears to Allyson in the presence of other people, Allyson almost invariably speaks aloud to the apparition, whom no one else can see, causing people to wonder if she’s all there. Allyson may be pretty, but she is not bright.

Nathan and Allyson don’t develop any kind of relationship. They exchange speaking glances while Nathan is serving dinner, ride through the park with the ‘footman’ minding his place, and they spend a lot of time apart. Every once in a while the author kindly informs us that they are developing feelings for each other, but I never saw it happen so it rang false every time.

And am I the only one who finds it ludicrous that a man of Nathan’s rank – both social and military – would be asked to polish the silver and clean the lamps for an extended period, just to keep from bruising Allyson’s ego? Or, that he would accept the assignment without a word of objection?

Nothing much happens for most of the book. Nathan and Allyson meander along, with a couple of little side trips to rescue a girl from a brothel and to save Allyson’s mother from a blackmailer. That may sound interesting in summary, but it’s nowhere near enough to fill nearly 200 pages of book. And it’s all resolved so easily that these incidents add no tension at all. It’s just filler. Finally, there’s a crisis just pages from the end of the book. By that point, I cared so little that I barely woke up for it.

In fact, another appropriate title would have been Much Ado About Nothing.

-- Judi McKee

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