Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: March 30, 1993
Pages: 192 pages
Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Nineteen-year-old Lucy Bliss is quite lovely in her own right, but since her 17-year-old sister Belinda’s beauty is so extreme that everyone who beholds her considers her a “diamond of the first water,” as far as their worldly mother is concerned, Lucy’s charms are as nothing in comparison her precious Belinda. She has refused to waste time and money providing Lucy with a season, declaring her oldest daughter only worthy of marriage to a lowly vicar, in spite of the fact that Mr. Bliss hails from the lower aristocracy and Mrs Bliss from the gentry, their family is quite wealthy, and both of her daughters have been provided with a hefty dowry. In contrast to her cavalier treatment of Lucy, within a few short weeks, all the stops are to be pulled out for Belinda’s London comeout, since Mrs Bliss is convinced that nothing less than a Duke will do for Belinda.
When Mrs Bliss learns that the notorious, but extremely rich and handsome, 34-year-old Duke of Wardshire has finally decided to settle down, she is determined that the fiancée he chooses will be Belinda. But Lucy is equally determined that her mother will not marry off her beloved little sister to a lecherous rake, even if ultimately the only thing she can do to thwart her mother’s ambition is to enter into an insincere engagement with the man herself.
Out of perhaps 40 of MC’s novels that that I have read so far which are marketed as historical romances, this is one of only two or three in which the main plot is actually a romance. Her comic novels tend to have a main plot that is a comedy of errors executed by an ensemble cast of comically bizarre characters, and a romance plot that runs a distant second. Her non-comic novels tend to have a main plot that is a dark melodrama rife with murder or attempted murder, attempted rape, and a vindictively jealous Other Woman who is often the perpetrator of the murder or attempted murder within the plot.
In this comedic novel, there certainly is a jealous OW, but she is not a murderous villain or even a main antagonist. Lucy’s primary antagonists are her mother and the Duke.
Mrs Bliss is a typical, MC, obnoxious, female antagonist, which is a common theme throughout her novels. Though given the fact that this is a comedy, Mrs Bliss is not remotely as creepily grotesque as MC’s female villains.
Happily for romance fans, most of this romp of a novel is focused on the comic manipulation and counter manipulation between Lucy and the Duke, who is not actually evil. His character is a clever twist on the popular romance trope of the Dark and Dangerous, Alpha hero. In the years since he unexpectedly inherited his dukedom, he has encouraged his best friend to put about rumors of his supposed depravity in order to keep intrusive hordes of ambitious, matchmaking mamas at bay.
Belinda is quite unique in the MC panoply of female subcharacters. Like the Duke, she provides an entertaining comic twist on a classic, Regency-romance subcharacter, the beautiful widgeon. At first glance, Belinda seems to have nothing between her pretty ears but vacant space. However, she turns out to be eminently practical in both rationally self-interested and compassionately caring ways. Her direct honesty stands in stark comic relief to the corkscrew machinations of Lucy and the Duke. As such, she is a brilliantly executed character in the Confidante role. I also adored the secondary romance featuring Belinda. It is one of the most amusing and heartwarming parts of the book.
All in all, for someone new to MC, this is an excellent book to try first.
I rate this novel as follows:
Primary Romance Plot: 4
Secondary Romance Plot: 4