The Gallant Guardian

My Lady Nightingale

My Wayward Lady

Lord Harry’s Daughter
by Evelyn Richardson
(Signet, $4.99,PG) ISBN 0-451-20163-9
The Peninsular War has provided the setting for many of my favorite historical romances, so it was with considerable anticipation that I picked up Evelyn Richardson’s new Regency romance. Nor was I disappointed, as long as the book concentrated on the developing relationship between the hero and heroine. Unfortunately, about halfway through the story, things went a bit awry and then the ending failed to sustain the same level of interest as the early part of the book. Hence, I ended up concluding that Lord Harry’s Daughter, while acceptable, is not quite a recommended read.

The heroine and hero are both nicely drawn characters. Sophia Featherstonaugh (I never did quite figure out how to say that name) has been raised in the army. Her father, Lord Harry, was the ne’er do well son of a duke who was cut off from his family after making a misalliance. Charming and irrepressible, he was also reckless and improvident and unfaithful. After his death, his lovely widow had remarried, choosing General Sir Thornton Curtis, one of Wellington’s quartermasters. Sophia and her mother continue to follow the drum, but their lives are much happier and more secure.

Major Lord Mark Adair is also the son of a duke, and a very stuffy one at that. He had chosen a military career, in part out of patriotism, in part to escape his family. Handsome, wealthy and charming, he has quite a reputation with the ladies. Since his mother was Spanish, he speaks the language fluently, which makes him invaluable as one of Wellington’s exploring officers. While recognizing the importance of his missions, Mark is not particularly happy with his role as a spy.

Mark and Sophia meet one day when he encounters her out painting the Spanish landscape. He is much taken with her considerable artistic talent and her independent attitude. Raised by her father’s regiment, Sophia is a most unusual young lady. She can ride like the wind, shoot better than most men with pistol and rifle, and adapt with ease to the rigors of army life. In short, she is unlike any young woman Mark has ever met.

The two develop a warm friendship, something I always enjoy in romances. Neither thinks of the other romantically: Sophia because she has trained herself to view all young officers as brothers and because her father’s behavior has convinced her that marriage is not a great state for women; Mark because he is simply not thinking of marriage and knows that when he does wed, it will undoubtedly be to a woman of high social status.

As long as we follow Sophia and Mark and Wellington’s army through the last campaign of the war, the story goes swimmingly. Richardson clearly has done her research. The details of army life are very well drawn. As Mark and Sophia spend time together, they draw ever closer. One can see their feelings grow and develop.

Then, the plot takes an unexpected turn with the introduction of a predatory French countess who catches Mark’s eye. I can almost see the author saying to herself, we need some conflict here. Unfortunately, the conflict seems strained. The story ends with Mark and Sophia in London and, to be honest, I was not quite satisfied with the way Richardson finally brought the two together.

Yet despite my problems with elements of the story, I liked the hero and heroine very much. I certainly enjoyed the picture Richardson drew of life in Wellington’s army. Hence, while I cannot recommend Lord Harry’s Daughter, the book does have some very good aspects.

--Jean Mason

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