When I finished The Gallant Guardian last night, I thought I was
going to recommend Evelyn Richardson's latest Regency. I wanted
to recommend the book. After all, guardian/ward books have a storied
history in the Regency genre starting with the first real Regency of
all, Georgette Heyer's Regency Buck. But this plot has been
mostly absent in recent years, perhaps because it usually requires a
significant age difference and a young heroine. And I really did like
both Richardson's guardian and his ward.
But the morning brought counsel and I concluded that I could not in all
conscience give The Gallant Guardian a four heart rating.
Perhaps I can explain my change of heart by relating it to my experience
with grading papers. Occasionally, I get a really well written paper
that seems to be right on when it comes to the assignment. Then,
suddenly up pops a major error. Oops, no A, but still. . . . Then up
pops another error. Uh oh, we are moving into the B- range. And
finally, when I get to the conclusion, there is something else that
doesn't quite make sense. Well, the paper has moved from excellent to
good to just acceptable. Just as this book did. Pity.
Let me demonstrate what went wrong.
Maximilian Stanforth, fifth Marquess of Lydon, has a reputation, to say
the least. The neglected son of two selfish socialites, he was cut off
by his father and proceeded to India and to make his
fortune. Since his return to England he has cut quite a swath through
the dashing young matrons and widows of the ton. Despite his huge
fortune and handsome person, matchmaking mothers warn their daughters
away from the marquess. He has made his opinion of marriage quite
The marquess is surprised one day to receive a letter from Lady
Charlotte Winterbourne, asking Max when he was going to undertake his
responsibilities as guardian of herself and her young brother. Max
searches his memory and recalls that his friend, Hugo, Earl of Harcourt,
one evening over cards had asked Max if he might name him guardian of
his children in the event of the earl's death. Max surmises that Hugo
is not merely out of town but has passed from this mortal coil. He
turns his responsibilities over to his man of business and puts the
matter from his mind.
But Lady Charlotte can not afford to let the marquess shirk his duties.
Her young brother William, now Earl of Harcourt, was injured at birth
and has limited mental capacities. Charlotte has devoted herself to her
brother, teaching him the basics of reading and writing and seeing that
he has a happy life. But now, her cousin Sir Cecil Wadleigh and his
obnoxious wife Almeria are threatening to descend on Harcourt. Cecil,
as heir to the title and estate, wants to relegate William to a country
cottage with a keeper and enjoy the position of earl if not the
Which brings us to the first error. Cecil is described as the son of
the sister of the late earl. Titles and estates do not generally pass
through the female line. And if the letters patent creating the earldom
of Harcourt make provision for the title's passing through a woman,
Charlotte's issue (since she is in the direct line), not her aunt's
would have precedence. And if this were the case, then Cecil would not
be urging her to marry.
Charlotte finds it hard to withstand her cousins' importunities, so she
hies herself off to London to meet the marquess and insist that he come
and drive the Wadleighs away. Max, taken by the self-possessed young
woman, agrees to follow her to Harcourt shortly. And so he does.
Which brings us to the second major error. Even though Max is
Charlotte's and William's guardian, he could not visit them at Harcourt
unless there were someone to chaperon Charlotte. Even had he been the
epitome of goodness, he could not spend weeks with her unchaperoned.
But he is a rake! His presence would destroy Charlotte's reputation.
(Indeed, Charlotte probably could not have lived at Harcourt herself
without some proper female to give her countenance.)
I know, you are saying, "So what? If it's a good story, who cares?"
Well, obviously, I do and so do many others who have been reading
Regencies for years. One of the "requirements" for any Regency is a
fidelity to the customs and mores of the era. In fact, it is the
playing out of human behavior against the backdrop of the formal
conventions of the time that gives the Regency its special quality. I
really do believe that authors should not make the kind of blatant
errors here described, errors that could have easily been dealt with.
(And where was the editor? A question I ask with increasing frequency
I really cannot describe in detail what went wrong at the end of the
book. But let me say that the villains behave in ways that are
completely contrary to common sense. I know they're basically stupid,
So despite the fact that I really liked the hero and heroine and thought
they were well drawn and well developed, that I thought Richardson's
portrayal of William was deftly and warmly done, and that I just love
guardian/ward stories, I simply cannot recommend The Gallant
Guardian. I, being a kind soul, often let my students rewrite their
papers. I only wish that were an option here.