Lucas Strathdene, Lord John (really, that would sound so much better if it were the other way around) has decided it’s about time he found himself a wife. After all, he can hardly move without some simpering miss or her matchmaking mama falling into his path. So Lucas instructs his butler, Tuttles, to come up with a list of suitable ladies, built to Lucas’s specifications, whereupon Lucas will pick one, marry, and settle into a life of wedded comfort.
Meanwhile, Miss Phillida Morgan is being pressured to marry by her elderly great-aunt. It seems that Phillida’s widowed mother won’t even consider remarrying until Phillida is settled. Phillida enlists the help of her abigail, Flint, in assembling a list of possible suitors who aren’t bores or poseurs. Flint and Tuttles, who are already acquainted, hatch a plan. They’ll assemble lists of the most unsuitable candidates, and when Lucas and Phillida finally meet, they will see how perfectly suited they are for each other.
Unbeknownst to Tuttles and Flint, Lucas and Phillida meet early on at a soiree and find themselves confessing their mutual dilemmas. They hatch a plan of their own – a sham engagement to get everyone off their backs and allow them both time to seek out a good mate. This works out well, until Lucas and Phillida find they enjoy each other’s company more than anybody else’s. Yet neither one is willing to admit it, preferring not to risk a certain rejection. After all, this was supposed to be a friendly arrangement, not a real romance.
Meanwhile, Lucas’s mother and Phillida’s great-aunt have their own plans for the two, and it doesn’t include a romance. Their high-handed interference will force Lucas and Phillida into a direction neither one anticipates.
There isn’t anything particularly new about An Acceptable Arrangement, but readers won’t be unhappy with the end result. Phillida and Lucas are sharp, witty, and mature in their actions. Their mutual astonishment at finding a real love match inside a sham engagement is palpable, and their actions when faced with their relatives’ machinations are just what a reader would hope for – no silly misunderstandings or false assumptions. Instead, Lucas takes on heroic overtones as he stands by Phillida, and she helps him in return.
The secondary characters are standard issue. Phillida’s eccentric, elderly great-aunt and Lucas’s imperious, demanding mother serve their purpose, but do little other than provide a reason to push the story forward. They don’t take up too much space, however, and the focus remains in Phillida and Lucas throughout.
An Acceptable Arrangement is a perfectly acceptable Regency romance and a good way to spend a few hours of your time.