A Diamond in the Rough
A Diamond in the Rough is the only Regency Romance I’ve ever read with a sports theme. In this case, the sport is golf. The heroine is a woman who works as a caddie at St. Andrews golf course; naturally, she is disguised as a young man. The hero is a complete novice who must learn to play golf in order to win a wager made by his wastrel father.
Adrian Linsley, Viscount Marchand, is everything his father isn’t. Adrian’s father is known for his inability to resist a wager, particularly when he has been drinking. Although he has managed to gamble away most of the ancestral lands, so far he has kept his promise to never wager the primary ancestral estate, Woolsey Hall. Through prudent saving and a secret career as a garden designer, Adrian has managed to acquire enough cash to buy Woolsey Hall from his father. When he proposes to the woman of his dreams – a diamond of the first water and a pattern-card of propriety – he is sure his happiness will be complete. On the eve of his betrothal, Adrian discovers that his father has broken his promise, wagering Woolsey Hall on the outcome of a golf game between Adrian and Lord Hertford on St. Andrews golf course. Adrian is well-known for his athleticism, but he’s never even heard of golf. Hertford is from Scotland and is – of course – an accomplished golfer.
Adrian (who has a month to prepare) seeks the help of a friend and is referred to Hugh Philp, a man who makes excellent golf clubs and knows a lot about the game. Hugh is in the middle of an important commission, so he places Adrian in the hands of a young caddie named Derry. Derry is actually Miss Derrien Edwards, who masquerades as a man so she can pursue her beloved avocation for golf at St. Andrews. Derry is not particularly inclined to help Adrian. Her mother was seduced and abandoned by an English lord, so she has no particular love for the nobility. Since Adrian is there to prepare for the wager, Derrien assumes he is an undisciplined gambler as well. So she’s predisposed to dislike Adrian, and she sees no reason to change her opinion at first. But as she teaches him the game of golf and sees that he is a hard worker and diligent learner, she comes to respect him a little more. And when she meets him as her true, female self, she discovers that they share a passion for gardening. Meanwhile, Adrian’s fiancée Honoria and her family have come north to observe the wager. Adrian finds himself becoming disenchanted with Honoria, who seems dull and unintelligent compared to the fascinating Miss Edwards. But how can Adrian honorably end his engagement, and will he find out who his caddie really is? Then there is the matter of the all-important golf match. Adrian must beat a more experienced golfer in order to win back his beloved home.
I am definitely not a big golf fan, but I enjoyed this book anyway, and even found the golf scenes interesting. If you really enjoy golf, you will probably like them even more than I did. Conversely, if you can’t stand golf and have no desire to hear about it at all, this is probably not the book or you, because there is plenty of golf to be had. I might add that I had almost no knowledge of golf’s history, but this book prompted me to look up some general information, and from what I read A Diamond in the Rough seems to be quite accurate. In the author’s note at the end of the book, Pickens tells us that Hugh Philp was a real person, reputed to be as talented at making golf clubs as Stradivarius was at making violins.
It’s not only golf, though. I liked that Adrian and Darrien had two passions in common. By day, they work on golf, and by night they meet at parties and share their passion for gardens. It takes a little while for them to discover their shared interest, and in the meantime it’s pretty funny to watch both of them sneak out of parties – separately – so they can get a good look at some unusual specimen or design. Both of them are likable characters. Derrien is prickly at first, but the incorrect assumptions she makes about Adrian are believable under the circumstances.
My one problem with this book is that I found it hard to believe that Adrian could talk to Derrien in both her guises and yet take so long to recognize her. She does put dirt on her face and disguise her voice when she is “Derry,” but I still found it hard to credit. But though I almost always have trouble believing such scenarios, I am willing to set aside my skepticism if I am enjoying the book otherwise, and such was the case here. If you can be similarly accommodating, I encourage you to give this one a try.