HAD HER INNOCENT MASQUERADE COME TO THIS–A PROPOSAL OF MISTRESS-SHIP?
Convinced that Lucy Percy was a mere fortune hunter throwing her cap at his twit of a nephew, Tony Carlton, Lord Avedon was trying to buy her off–with his own charms!
The whole charade had begun when Lucy fell in love with a man who merely cherished her fortune. Posing as a widow of modest means to avoid other money-hungry scoundrels, she left the tattlebaskets of London for the gentry of Kent. And though she didn’t encourage Tony Carlton’s puppy love, she had half a mind to marry him just to teach Adrian Avedon a lesson!
And surely her pounding heart and weak knees were the product of her outrage at Avedon’s schemes to be rid of her, not anything as unspeakable as love…?
Lucy has decided to hide out in the country to nurse her broken heart, and to escape the dogged devotion of fortune hunters, will be masquerading as a widow. With her chaperone Aunt in tow, Lucy find the perfect cottage.
Unfortunately, the stuffy landlord Lord Avedon thinks this is another fortune hunter schemer after his puppy of a ward, Tony Carlton.
Hilarity ensues. A masquerade with lots of rompish, silly parts, The Waltzing Widow does base much of the conflict of the plot on misunderstanding–but because its masquerade/mistaken identity driven rather than just lousy communication skills, it isn’t frustrating. It also is buoyed by a H/h who are headstrong and lock horns in a battle for dominance.
Lord Avedon tries a multitude of means to evict the ladies from the cottage, and in response Lucy figures out what will pique him most–letting Tony pay court. The banter during these battles is delightful, endearing the characters despite their obvious flaws.
Smith, as a master of the genre, keeps the narrative supported by some interesting supporting characters and subplots. The overreaching sister, Lady Sara, provides some additional comedic gems…as she fights for her husband’s promotion within the Church by toadeating Lucy’s maternal uncle, Bishop Norris. I also loved the rakish, raffish Morton, who is tweaking his cousin Lord Avedon the whole way through by paying slavish court to the young “widow.”
I like that Lucy is young but a little world-wise, having just had her heart broken and hopes dashed by a gazetted fortune hunter. It makes her a more interesting deb, and explains some of her impassioned high-flyer behavior. I think it also gives her that extra spark to go toe-to-toe with the stiff-rumped Lord Avedon, who obviously needs to be taken down a peg.
This is the kind of traditional Reg Rom that some readers won’t love. Either they will find it too slow, too light on romance (and definitely steamy action), or will be frustrated by the quick resolution. However, Smith has quickly become a go-to author for me because she so closely resembles Heyer and knows how to deliver the conventions while still presenting in a fresh and funny way. I definitely will re-read this one, and although perhaps not as frequently as some of Smith’s other titles, or as a Heyer or Austen, still probably more than once.
5 out of 6 Laugh out loud masquerade romp with a battle of wills that escalates…into love.