The Gamester's Daughter

 
The Gold Scent Bottle
by Dorothy Mack
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20003-9
****
Max Waring, Viscount Edgeworth, was betrayed in the most hurtful way by the two people he loved and trusted most. When he introduced the beauteous Felicity to his father as his bride-to-be, his father, instead of congratulating his son and wishing him well, stole Felicity from him and married her himself. Now, after four years in the army, Max has returned to England. On his first night in London, he meets Felicity at a soiree. She is a beautiful as he remembers and seems to be seeking to try to reignite their former relationship. How can he return to his home in such circumstances?

A solution presents itself in a most unusual fashion. When Max wins a significant sum of money from Roland Monroe, the young man presents him with a gold scent bottle as a pledge for repayment. Unfortunately, the bottle belongs not to Roly but rather to his twin sister Abigail. Since the bottle was a bequest from her mother, Abigail is determined to recover it, going so far as to climb in the window of Max’s London house. Caught in the act, Abigail is in no position to refuse Max’s offer: he will return the bottle if she will accompany him to his family estate in the guise of his fiancée.

Thus does Dorothy Mack set up the premise for her entertaining Regency romance.

Abigail has had little experience of society. Her father, although a gentleman, supports the family by raising horses. Her mother had been cut off from her family for marrying below her. Now Abigail finds herself thrust into a house party at the earl’s estate. Although now dressed in an elegant fashion that permits her loveliness to shine, she feels out of her depth, especially given the lightly veiled hostility of her hostess.

Abigail is nothing like the kind of woman Max thought he found attractive. She is plain spoken, hot-headed and impetuous. She is also kind and thoughtful and honest. The comparison with the petulant, cloying and insincere Felicity could not be more apt. Max finds himself increasingly attracted to his pretend fiancée. For her part, Gail, seeing Max in his well-loved home and among his people where he can relax and be himself, begins to change her opinion of the man who has forced her into this masquerade. But Max and Gail will have no chance of happiness until the ghosts of the past are laid.

Mack does a good job of describing Max’s and Gail’s developing romance. Max seems at first selfish in forcing Abigail into this unwelcome deception, but his actions do make sense, given the perils of his situation. Abigail behaves with considerable aplomb given the her circumstances.

The secondary characters are well drawn. Felicity is a familiar character in romance -- the selfish, beauty who must be the cynosure of all attention and who has no thought for anyone else. The earl becomes a surprisingly sympathetic character, given his betrayal of his son.

By setting her story against the backdrop of a country house party, Mack provides an interesting portrait of Regency society and life. She knows how to create a real feeling of time and place.

The Gold Scent Bottle is an enjoyable and well written romance that should appeal to the fans of the Regency era.

--Jean Mason


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