A Grand Deception
A Grand Deception by the late Elizabeth Mansfield was first published in 1988 and has been reprinted as a Signet Super Regency. It has a delightfully complicated plot and characters who are, for the most part, charming. It’s a sweet traditional Regency Romance, but that it earns even above-average status owes to its secondary romance more than anything else.
Georgianna (Georgy) Verney is adamantly opposed to marrying for money. Never mind that her family is not exactly rolling in the ready, bluestocking Georgy hates the idea of matrimony and wants to be an independent woman. At a party, where she has dressed in her drabbest gown, she meets Anthony (Tony) Maitland, Viscount Ivers (he is called Lord Maitland all through the book, which is wrong – he should be addressed as Lord Ivers). After one dance, Tony is charmed by the outspoken and beautiful Georgy, but she gives him the polite brush off.
After the party, Georgy’s brother Jeremy comes home from the Army. Jeremy is the new Lord Verney and has plans to rebuild the family fortune and marry his love, Rosalind. But his homecoming is marred by the discovery that Georgy has left the household. Their mother, Lady Horatia, is in an uproar and sends Jeremy off to find her. Jeremy loses track of Georgy, but he rescues a young woman named Peggy who looks very much like his sister. When Jeremy brings Peggy home, Lady Horatia, (who noticed Tony’s interest in Georgy) coerces her into impersonating Georgy at a house party where Tony will be a guest.
In the meantime, Georgy, calling herself Grace Vail, has taken a position as the teacher in a Dame School in the parish of the Reverend Hunsford. She is a little taken aback when she finds out that her salary will not even cover the price of the bonnet she is wearing, but Georgy is not a quitter. She cleans the schoolroom, scours the district for likely pupils and tries her best to make school interesting. Georgy is a good teacher and the students love her, but she clashes with the patroness of the school, Lady Ruckworth, and for the first time in her life Georgy runs into a situation she can’t control. Things get even more complicated when Tony (who has seen through Peggy’s disguise) tracks Georgy down and comes calling.
This is only the bare outline of a complicated plot – so complicated that there were a few supporting characters whose stories were left hanging. But while it is complicated, the plot is not convoluted, and I enjoyed seeing how the author handled it. The main love story involves Georgy and Tony, but there was a strong secondary love story featuring Jeremy Verney and Peggy. Truthfully, I enjoyed Jeremy and Peggy’s story much more since they spent more time with each other, although I will admit that the idea of a man falling in love with a woman who looks like his sister is a little creepy.
As for Tony and Georgy, their love story lacked believability. He fell in love with her after one dance and they are separated for almost all the rest of the book. Then when they do get back together, Georgy realizes she loves him but she is determined not to let on since falling in love will be going against her principles. Huh? This only served to make her look stupid. When she is teaching, Georgy is a very likable character, but when she is with Tony she is just the reverse.
As for Tony, he is nice enough but bland. He isn’t in the book enough to make much of an impression beyond that of a generic nice guy beta hero.
I’ve read my share of romances with good secondary love stories, but usually the secondary story doesn’t outshine the primary one quite as much as in this book. It was Jeremy and Peggy who really made A Grand Deception enjoyable for me. My mother is a big fan of Regency romances and I plan to give this one to her. I’ll bet she agrees that Jeremy and Peggy are a much more interesting couple.