From the desk of Katie Patchell:
When I was a teenager, I “met” Georgette Heyer for the first time. Bath Tangle was my introduction to her Regency world via a battered, coffee-stained copy housed at shoe-level in my library’s ‘H’ section. Serena and Rotherham’s banter and Heyer’s madcap plot was the perfect entry to the world of Heyer (I’ll never forget the line: “You may set the county alight, if you choose, but ride rough-shod over me you will not!”). In months I checked off the rest of her Regencies. Gray-eyed hero after gray-eyed hero made my acquaintance; so too did Heyer’s remarkably clever, daring heroines. Two of her main leads are the strong-willed younger woman and the independent spinster, equally fan favorites. In Anne Gracie’s latest Regency and series opener, The Scoundrel’s Daughter, these two types of heroines are brought together in a romantic tale, one filled to the brim with its own madcap escapades.
Alice, the newly widowed Lady Charlton, has blessedly escaped her husband’s cruel neglect. With only a few of his debts left to pay, Alice looks forward to a life free of the ton, free of gossip, and free—finally—of any connection to her husband. Everything is going according to plan until a sinister man arrives on her doorstep. The man reveals her husband’s scandalous letters, which if published, would destroy Alice’s chance at a peaceful life. The destruction of these letters requires, according to the unsavory guest, a small favor: to launch his unknown, untitled, and tactless daughter into the critical sphere of the ton. And if this isn’t enough, to guarantee she marries a lord by the end of the season! What can Alice do, but accept?
Lucy Bamber, daughter of the unsavory guest, has a problem, and this problem is more than a rude gentleman almost crushing her and her goose, Ghislaine, in his horse race (although that features high on the list). Her real problem begins and ends with the existence of titled gentlemen. In every school and home her father placed her throughout her formative years, it was the lords, the wealthy, and the society darlings who taunted and tortured her. Lucy wants no part of the ton, and she resolves to do everything in her power to foil Alice’s mission.
For Alice, her future plans of peace and quiet change when she meets a kindhearted, gray-eyed soldier with three precocious daughters. Maybe all men aren’t villains after all? For Lucy, her plan shifts when she discovers her father’s horrible blackmail scheme…and that the rude, almost-goose-murdering gentleman is none other than Alice’s nephew. With schemes for romance and vengeance running amok, it will take these newly united heroines every ounce of ingenuity, humor, and courage they possess to create their own happy endings.
The Scoundrel’s Daughter captured this reader with its author’s wit, characters’ charm, and heartfelt look at love and the different forms it takes. There is love that begins as healing friendship but develops into passion (Alice and Lord Tarrant), and passionate distrust that evolves into a trusting partnership (Lucy and Lord Thornton). Above it all, there is the realistic, sweet love between friends and family, which is shown through Alice and Lucy’s relationship and Lord Tarrant’s tenderness toward his children. My favorite couple was Lucy and Lord Thornton. Their verbal sparring and constant one-upmanship is a style of romance I love to read. However, Alice and Lord Tarrant’s journey is a beautiful counterpoint not to be missed.
The Scoundrel’s Daughter is not a traditional Regency in the mode of Jane Austen; the characters spoke with modern language and 21st-century cultural sensibilities. Sex became a major plot point for one of the heroines toward the 75% mark. The plot brought up the question of whether or not a character should choose to be a mistress, and this was handled a shade too lighthearted for me. The romance trope of a sexy, experienced, physically imposing male bedding a woman out of honor (?) to teach her about her body made me—a young woman and supporter of the #MeToo movement—look askance. This particular plot point reminded me that book heroes can get away with things that set off red warning lights in daily life, solely because we know the hero means well and cannot, by definition, be an exploiter or abuser.
On a different note, with two very distinct but equally lovable heroines, two swoon-worthy heroes, and more adventures (and misadventures) than I can count, The Scoundrel’s Daughter is a charming addition to the Regency genre. This novel combines the dashing style of Georgette Heyer with Anne Gracie’s skilled pen for love and comedy.
4 out of 5 Stars
- The Scoundrel’s Daughter: The Brides of Bellaire Gardens (Book 1), by Anne Gracie
- Berkley (August 24, 2021)
- Mass Market Paperback (368) pages
- ISBN: 978-0593200544
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Cover image courtesy of Berkley © 2021; text Katie Patchell © 2021, Austenprose.com