Lady Diana’s Daring Deed
by Mona Gedney
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6721-6
****
If you can accept the premise that a young lady can spend several evenings in the presence of an astute gentleman without his realizing that she is not her twin brother, then you will enjoy this entertaining Regency. Come to think of it, even if you really can’t accept the idea, you’ll probably enjoy the book. After all, I did.

Lady Diana Ballinger has come to London without the permission of her staid and stodgy guardian for a few weeks of enjoyment. She should have been presented several years earlier; after all, she is almost twenty-one. However, her uncle despises the ton and all its doings and has kept Diana ensconced in the country. Her Aunt Lavinia, who has raised her, knows that Uncle Robert will be displeased, but she is no match for her determined niece. In fact, not many people are a match for Diana when she makes her mind to do something.

Diana soon discovers that her brother, Trevor, is in trouble. Trevor has fallen in love with sweet Lady Genevieve Linden, daughter of Lord Appleby. The earl is, as usual, in desperate need of money and is perfectly willing to sell his daughter for £100,000. Unfortunately, Trevor will not come into his own fortune until he is twenty-five and Appleby won’t wait. Unless Trevor can come up with the money, Jenny will be forced to marry the unpleasant and elderly Lord Treffington. So Trevor has decided to try to win the money. Unfortunately, Trevor is a lousy card player. So Diana rides to his rescue.

Trevor has chosen to test his limited skill against Mr. Jack Melville and he is soon in trouble. Diana decides to challenge Mr. Melville, without her brother’s knowledge, to a rematch. After all, she can play cards. Melville arranges to play with young Lord Ralston at his home.

Melville finds his opponent quite interesting, but distressingly naive. Betrayed by his own parents, Jack has a jaundiced view of human nature and concludes that he will be doing “Trevor” a favor by demonstrating that people are basically selfish. So, he offers his opponent a wager “he” can’t refuse. If “Trevor” wins the final hand, he will receive the required £100,000. If he loses, he will still receive the money, but he will have to give Jack his sister’s hand in marriage. Diana, of course, accepts the wager and loses.

The remainder of the story deals with the results of this wager. Jack meets Diana and thus meets his match. He doesn’t quite know what to make of this young woman who seems completely unfazed by her brother’s selfish action but who rather presses him to complete the bargain. Of course, Diana has a plan; Diana always has a plan. She is convinced that Melville really doesn’t want to marry anyone and that she can force him to admit it and to withdraw. But before too long, neither party to the wager is completely certain that they want to withdraw from this most improbable match.

Lady Diana is the feisty heroine personified, but she is also intelligent and astute. She’s managing and manipulative, but always in a good cause. Her plots may be outrageous, but her heart is in the right place. I couldn’t help but like her and enjoy her machinations. Jack is the jaded hero personified, but he is also charming and amused and intrigued by this most unusual young lady.

Gedney displays a deft hand in creating amusing secondary characters who add some delightfully humorous moments to this lively tale. Particularly funny is Diana’s and Trevor’s friend, Tom, who is putty in Diana’s hands and whose helplessness in the face of her determination is most entertaining.

All in all, Lady Diana’s Daring Deed is a lighthearted and enjoyable Regency romance. Even if I found the premise somewhat unlikely, I was amused and entertained by the characters and by Diana’s clever schemes. This one was fun.

--Jean Mason


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