Annabella's Diamond

Balmorrow's Bride

Camilla's Fate

A Devilish Dilemma

A Season of Virtues

 
Mutiny at Almack’s
by Judith A. Lansdowne
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6388-1
****
Judith Lansdowne writes some of the best light and humorous Regencies around. In Mutiny at Almack’s, she offers vintage Lansdowne -- charming, witty, humorous and delightful. The book also contains one of her cheerfully improbable subplots, having to do with an attempted assassination of the czar’s favorite diva.

Our hero is Adam Gregory Attenbury, Viscount Stoneforth, Britain’s most decorated soldier. He has fought for his country for fifteen years all over the world (though what he was doing at the Battle of the Pyramids I can’t say, since that was fought between the French and the Mameluks) and has sold out after an injury left him blind in one eye. He returns home, hoping to renew his relationship with his younger brother, Toby, only to find Toby desperately ill with fever after sustaining an injury in a duel.

Toby had fought the Earl of Wentworth for impugning the fair name of Miss Melody Harriman, the object of his youthful infatuation. Stoneforth decides that only the presence of his beloved will save his brother’s life. So he arranges to meet Miss Harriman at Almack’s to intercede with her on his brother’s behalf.

Stoneforth induces Lord Castlereagh to get him into the sacred precincts of Almack’s without a voucher and gains the desired introduction to the woman his brother calls for in his delirium. He is lucky to find Miss Harriman in town. She had fled to her uncle’s home, largely because that same Earl of Wentworth had informed his large following among the ton’s gentlemen that she was an on-the-shelf spinster without wit, countenance or attractiveness. Melody had found herself a shunned wallflower, simply because, at 24, she is so much older than the other debutantes. Her delayed presentation resulted from the fact that she and her mother had accompanied her diplomat father on his assignments.

Melody has only agreed to return to town because her three young cousins accompanied her. Kate, Ally, and Bea are triplets. Individually lovely, together they are a sensation when they make their bow. And they are determined to get revenge on all the foolish young men who have treated their cousin shabbily, with Wentworth their prime target.

Thus has Lansdowne set up a most promising scenario. Melody is, of course, eager to comfort Toby, although she had no idea of his supposed passion. Stoneforth comes to know her better and discovers that she is everything he has dreamed of in a wife. But she is Toby’s beloved! As a man of honor, he cannot poach on his young brother’s preserves.

Not content with one romance, Lansdowne actually gives us four. Especially delightful is the love-hate relationship between the despicable Wentworth and the irrepressible Bea. And it all comes to a head as Stoneforth, at the behest of Castlereagh, seeks to protect the czar’s protégée .

A most interesting wrinkle in Mutiny at Almack’s is Lansdowne’s inclusion of Lord and Lady Castlereagh and Lady Jersey as important secondary characters rather that stock figures. Her portrayal of Lord Castlereagh is particularly interesting given what we know of his personality.

Mutiny at Almack’s is an enjoyable Regency romance. Stoneforth is a most admirable hero; Melody is a most attractive heroine. And, yes, there are kittens! Lansdowne’s talent for witty dialogue is fully on display here as is her ability to create humorous situations which seem quite realistic. After a rare sub par book, I am delighted that she has returned to form with Mutiny at Almack’s. When she is good, she is very, very good.

--Jean Mason


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