Debbie Raleigh's debut Regency features an impressive hero and a storyline
with a fun twist. Giles, Lord Carlton, is a wealthy peer who sometimes
acts as a courier for the War Department. Arriving at his latest
assignation, where he is to obtain a set of letters, he is surprised to
find two interlopers. One is an unknown man and the other is a young boy.
Giles has no time to discover their identities before they are all
ambushed. In the ensuing melee, the young boy is wounded in the shoulder.
Giles hides the boy in a barn, where he discovers that his charge is not a
boy, but a young woman.
The woman escapes when Giles leaves to get water from a nearby stream.
Weeks later, they meet again in London. Miss Roma Allendyle is there under
duress, to appease an aunt who wishes to help her find a husband, the last
thing on Roma's mind. She and Giles recognize each other immediately, and
he pressures her into explaining her presence at the courier's assignation.
Roma sets her mind to despising Giles, but reluctantly tells him that her
brother, William, is missing and she found the packet of letters in her
family library. She has come to London to see if she can track him down.
Giles, against his will, offers his assistance. Roma's initial reaction is
to scoff and protest that she can handle things on her own, but he soon
forces her to admit that he has entry where she does not. Roma reluctantly
agrees to have Lord Carlton make discreet inquiries. Soon they are thrown
together in a mock engagement in order to uncover the truth.
Lord Carlton's Courtship is well-plotted. The secondary characters
play an important part in William's disappearance, and I commend the author
for not traveling the well-worn path that I initially thought this book
would take. Giles is a delightful hero -- witty, bored to death with the
simpering women of the ton, delighted to find a woman of adventurous
spirit. His unwillingness to involve himself and his admission that he
can't help himself were endearing.
Roma wasn't quite his equal. She's certainly courageous, but that courage
is too often demonstrated in adventures that are borderline foolhardy. Her
refusal to admit that are some things Giles is better off handling makes
her seem immature and headstrong, and she spends too much time tossing her
head defiantly and viewing Giles with suspicion, although he's been nothing
but straightforward with her. All this huffing and high-spiritedness made
me wonder what Giles saw in her after the initial admiration for her
bravery. Instead of teaming up and working together like partners, he has
to spend too much time trying to convince Roma that he can be trusted and
will do his best to find William. If Roma would have settled down and
talked with Giles like a grown adult, I'd have had a lot more sympathy for
her. As it was, she often seemed like a petulant teenager.
So there you have it. A fine story line and a worthy hero are diminished
by a less-than-impressive heroine. However, for a debut novel, Lord
Carlton's Courtship has much to recommend it, and I look forward to
Debbie Raleigh's next work.