Miscalculations by Elizabeth Mansfield
(Jove, $5.99, G) ISBN 0-515-12834-1
Elizabeth Mansfield is one of the best-loved authors of Regency romances. Many of her twenty-eight previous books are considered classics. Miscalculations is purely and simply a typical Mansfield Regency without the word-count restrictions that generally apply to these books. It has an engaging hero and heroine, a delightful cast of secondary characters, an interesting plot and an authentic feel for the era. In short, typical for Mansfield means an entertaining read.

Lucian Hammond, Viscount Kettering lives the life of a London man-about-town. A gaming loss of £700 to his rival Sir Rodney Moncton should have been no problem for a man of his wealth. However, the late viscount had distrusted his son’s steadiness of character so had arranged that until Luke turned thirty-five, his mother would control the family fortune. Thus Luke must apply to his mother for funds to pay his debt of honor.

The receipt of yet another letter from her son asking for yet more money exasperates Martha, Lady Kettering so much that she shares her concern with secretary. This individual gives her ladyship some wise advice. Perhaps the viscount’s extravagance can be traced to his not being permitted to take on adult responsibilities by virtue of his father’s will. Why not end the trust and allow Lord Kettering to take charge of his own affairs? Lady Martha is much struck by this sage counsel. She will not immediately end the trust, but if her son can show that he has put his financial house in order after a month, he may have his economic independence. And to help him, Lady Martha proposes that this secretary who has so effectively managed her finances take her son in hand.

Lady Martha has a most unusual secretary and “man of affairs.” Jane Douglas had convinced her ladyship to take the unheard of step of hiring a woman for a position exclusively held by men. Jane needed the position to support her mother and young sister when her father died and left the family almost penniless.

Although an attractive young woman, Jane has a definite disadvantage; she’s very bright and an absolute genius with numbers. When Lady Martha “suggests” that Jane transfer her services temporarily to her son, she is not happy. But the promise of doubling her low salary leads to her agreement. Thus Lord Kettering acquires a new and most unusual “man of affairs.”

Mansfield offers a nicely done “opposites” attract romance. Jane is practical, hardworking, upright and, in her new employer’s opinion, a prude and a “bad influence.” After all, suddenly he starts worrying about such things as losing at cards, buying expensive horses, engaging in dangerous stunts, and all the those fun things that had been the essence of his life. Is it Jane or is it just that now that he controls his own money, his attitude is changing?

Both Jane and Luke are likable characters. If the latter seems a bit immature at times, the author explains his behavior and also why he changes. Jane is clearly the perfect woman for him and he’s smart enough to figure this out. Of course, there are difficulties to overcome, especially the machinations of Sir Rodney.

Miscalculations is a light and enjoyable book. It has humor, romance, and a bit of intrigue. Perhaps readers who have never read a straight Regency romance will discover just how much fun this kind of story can be if they pick up Mansfield’s new release. They could not find a better author to introduce them to the joys of the Regency.

--Jean Mason

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