Escapade is a fast and funny book, just right for vacation reading. Kasey Michaels' hero and heroine may be fairly typical (the country hoyden who captures the heart of the jaded man about town) and her story may not be original (a plot to bring down a nasty nobleman who has been fleecing green young men by cheating), but the secondary characters and the situations they create enliven the book and occasionally left me laughing out loud.
Our "jaded man about town" is Simon Roxbury, Viscount Brocton. Simon is a leader of the ton, a denizen of White's "bow window" where only the highest sticklers are allowed to sit. He is a friend of Beau Brummel and of the playwright, Sheridan, whose unhappy fates he bemoans. He is also a man with a social conscience and a mission.
Simon meets our "hoyden heroine" in a most unusual fashion. When he leaves a gambling hell and enters his carriage, she is waiting for him, pistol in hand. Although Caledonia Johnston is dressed like a man, Simon has no difficulty quickly determining her true gender. He follows her orders to direct his coachman to leave town.
But Callie has abducted the wrong lord. She had planned to kidnap and then "knee cap," the Earl of Filton, who had ruined her family by duping her brother into wagering his own and his father's fortune. Instead, she gets Viscount Brocton, who nearly talks her to death. Simon does succeed in wresting the pistol away from Callie, but she succeeds in escaping his clutches.
But Callie is undaunted by her bad luck. The next time Simon encounters her, Simon thwarts her second attempt at Filton and spirits her away to his house. It turns out that Simon too has a score to settle with the unpleasant Filton. He turns her over to his mother, Lady Imogene, to be groomed into a fashionable young lady and presented to the ton.
Imogene is the most entertaining character in the book. A woman of statuesque proportions, unlimited appetites, and unvarnished frankness, she has come to London to find a husband, even if this means lacing her stays so tightly that she occasionally crashes in a faint. She realizes that Simon must marry soon and she simply refuses to become a dowager viscountess. Imogene is much taken with the hoydenish Miss Johnston. So she announces to all and sundry that Callie and Simon are made for each other.
It actually takes Callie and Simon a little longer to realize the truth of Imogene's statements. Callie is certainly not the kind of woman Simon imagined as the next Viscountess Brocton. Callie finds Simon overbearing and over protective. Yet the spark is undoubtedly there.
Of course, we have the usual transformation of Callie into the beauteous young debutante, once she eschews her breeches and dresses fashionably. We have the obligatory dancing lesson, when Simon finds himself jealous of his friend who is twirling Callie around the floor. We also have lots of sparkling dialogue between the two as they spar, then kiss and make up.
Callie is a young heroine, not quite nineteen. These very young heroines are not as common as they once were in romances, but it seems to me (who spends a great deal of time around nineteen-year-olds), that Michaels has created a believable youthful heroine. Her doubts about Simon's feelings are perfectly understandable.
Simon is a perfect hero. He is witty; he is kind; he is handsome; he is also completely bemused by the feelings that Callie arouses in him. At one moment, he is furious; at the next, he is charmed.
Michaels has created a host of amusing characters, including the servants, who must deal with the flamboyant Imogene and yet maintain their professional decorum, not an easy task. The action is fast in Escapade. The dialogue is funny. The romance is sweet. The characters are delightful. I had only one problem with the book.
There is one very well done explicit love scene in the book and, frankly, it shouldn't be there. I can just hear an editor saying to the author, "This is a Regency historical; there has to be an explicit love scene!" No, there doesn't. There is plenty of sexual tension in the book, plenty of love scenes between Callie and Simon, plenty of interaction which portrays exactly why these two are right for each other. That Simon would bed Callie in his own house while she is under his mother's protection, does not fit his character or the situation.
All in all, Escapade is quite simply a Regency romp and a good one.