The Magnificent Marquess

The Rake’s Mistake by Gail Eastwood
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20727-0
It’s been a while since Gail Eastwood’s last Regency romance and I for one was glad to see The Rake’s Mistake on the shelves. Eastwood’s previous books offered interesting tidbits about the world of the early 19th century as well as intriguing plots and characters. Her new release is not exception. Here we learn quite a bit about yachting and the art world; we also encounter an intriguing heroine and a dashing hero.

The rake of the title is Archer Everett Drake, Lord Ramsdale. His youthful excesses had led his powerful uncle, the Marquess of Huntington, to exile him to the West Indies three years earlier. Now returned to England, older and wiser, he plans to behave more circumspectly. Then, he hears a woman’s laughter from a shop in Bond Street and is immediately enchanted. He discovers that the lady’s person is as charming as her laugh. Discovering that the lovely woman is a widow with a reputation for love affairs, Archer concludes that she will make a perfect mistress and plans his campaign to win her.

Daphne D’Avernett Stanswell, Lady Wetherell, has indeed had a checkered past. Her father was an immensely talented but improvident artist who used his daughter as a model for his students. She was seventeen when her father died and would have faced a dreadful fate had not one of his patrons, the much older Lord Wetherell, offered to marry her. Despite her care to act properly, she had become an object of malicious gossip. Now widowed, she is not received by polite society despite her title. While she might not care for herself - she is mostly interested in perfecting her own artistic abilities - she worries because her husband made her guardian of his son and she fears that her reputation might lead his uncle to challenge her authority.

Archer discovers that young Lord Wetherell has fallen into bad company and decides that taking the cub under his wing might help him win the lady’s confidence. He meets the widow and uses this ploy to spend time in her company. He discovers that he and the ton may well have been mistaken about Daphne’s character.

The plot worried me at first; I am not necessarily fond of heroes who pursue women for illicit purposes. But it soon became clear that Archer’s immediate attraction to Daphne quickly deepened to admiration and something more. Whatever his original purposes, Archer soon proves himself useful as Daphne tries to deal with her errant stepson and invaluable as she and he investigate what appears to be a case of art forgery.

I noted above that Eastwood includes interesting details about yachting and art. The role of the latter is indicated above. The former is one of the more charming parts of the tale. Archer is a yachtsman who dreams of winning the Duke’s Cup. He has brought some interesting new ideas about ship design from the West Indies. Moreover, since Lady Wetherell’s home is on the Thames, he decides to court her on the river. Daphne discovers that she enjoys sailing almost as much as she enjoys spending time with Archer. She might suspect his motives; she knows full well how ineligible she is. But Archer stirs feelings in her that her husband never did.

Eastwood has crafted an entertaining and interesting plot as well as an enjoyable romance. There is a nasty villain who has to be thwarted and obstacles to true love that have to be overcome. Daphne is a complex and attractive heroine; Archer, after a shaky start, proves to be a heroic hero. The Rake’s Mistake is very good Regency romance. I hope we will not have to wait too long for Eastwood’s next book.

--Jean Mason

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