3:30 a.m.! That's what time I finally turned my light out last night.
Now granted, I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn this morning,
but still, a book must be pretty compelling to keep me up that late.
There was something about Allison Lane's The Second Lady Emily
that kept me turning the pages.
This is a combination Regency/mystery/time travel/ghost story. Cherlynn
Cardington is in London to get over a nasty divorce and do research for
the Regency romance she hopes to get published. While visiting
Christie's she sees a list of titles and, on a lark, puts in a £10 bid
for the right to call herself Marchioness of Broadbanks. To her
amazement, she wins, is swept off to Buckingham Palace, invested with
the title and British citizenship, and told to immediately make up a
will to leave the title to someone else should she die.
This makes her very suspicious and she discovers what the readers
already know: that in 1812 a gypsy girl laid an awful curse on the
holders of the Broadbanks title. Since that time, some 81 members of the
Villiers family have met an untimely death. The last of the Villiers
now holds the title and when he dies, the marquessate will pass to
the queen. Given the current problems of the monarchy, it's the last
thing she needs. Hence the auction and the delight in finding an
ignorant American on whom to foist the title – and the curse.
Cherlynn, understandably, decides she has to find out more about this
curse and so she visits the ancestral estate, now owned by the National
Trust. While there she is pushed into a stone fireplace. When she
comes to, she is no longer Cherlynn Cardington, but is Lady Emily
Clifford who had died from a similar fall back in 1812.
Actually Lady Emily - like so many in those times – died not from the
fall itself but from the medical treatment she received in its
aftermath. Cherlynn is wise enough to drive away the doctor and
knowledgeable enough to order her own course of treatment so that this
second Lady Emily does not die. And gradually Cherlynn realizes that
she has been sent to 1812 by Emily's ghost to save her beloved Drew, the
heir to the title and estates and to thus prevent the dreaded curse from
ever being imposed.
So, we have here a many layered story that certainly kept this reader's
interest. On the one hand, we have a time traveler, one who knows
enough about Regency England to avoid the most grievous mistakes but who
nevertheless sees the world through the eyes of a 20th century woman.
We also have a paranormal story, as Cherlynn comes to inhabit the body
of Lady Emily (and a much nicer body it is than the short, chubby body
and nondescript features Cherlynn left behind.) Thus, those around her
– and especially Drew who loves Emily have to come to terms with a very
different woman. (She claims amnesia to help her navigate her way
through these dangerous waters.)
We have a mystery: why did Drew, who loved Emily and had gone to his
father to seek permission to marry her, suddenly become betrothed to the
noxious Fay and what did this have to do with Drew's brother's death?
Finally, we have a gentle romance as Cherlynn comes to love Drew and he
comes to appreciate the brighter, better read, more interesting, more
assertive Emily. But, of course, Cherlynn knows that once she solves
the problem, once she thwarts Fay, once she saves Drew, she will return
to the 20th century and the old Emily will resume her body.
Lane weaves all these strands together in a seamless story that did a
remarkably good job of combining all the disparate elements into an
entertaining whole. So I recommend The Second Lady Emily to an
equally disparate audience: to fans of Regencies, of time travels, of
paranormals and of mysteries. Why not a five? Probably because – with
all that plot – Lane didn't develop the romance as much as I would have
liked. But any book that can keep me up till 3:30 in the morning should
keep most romance readers nicely entertained.