A Perilous Engagement
I love history (especially social history) and I like my historical and Regency romances to be accurate. If a book uses too-modern phrases or if a character’s title is given wrong, I have been known to brood as I read the book. But given the choice between a book that is historically accurate but shallow and one that makes some historical errors, but is full of life and charm – well, hang accuracy, I say.
A Perilous Engagement gets all the details right. There are many characters in the book and they all eat correctly, dress correctly, drive appropriate carriages, furnish their houses with historically accurate furniture and behave with the utmost propriety. There are no errors to be found and all is as right and tight as can be. And as I was reading, I was praying for some kind of error, some kind of anacronism anything that would make these pretty paper doll people come alive.
Jordan, Baron Harcourt has inherited an estate and his title from his cousin Ivor who has been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Jordan has spent much time in London, and comes to the country to check out his new estate. He brings along his best friend Percy Posonby. The village is interested to meet the new Lord Harcourt and Jordan finds out that Cousin Ivor was engaged to Lady Ariel Brandon – an heiress in her own right and a perfectly charming girl. Ariel is chaperoned by her stern aunt Miss Maitland who does not seem to like Jordan at all.
Jordan and Percy spend a lot of time tooling about the estate discussing crops and furniture and houses and sheep and carriages in excrutiating detail. When they sit down to eat – the merits of each dish are gone over with as much solemnity as though they were hammering out a peace treaty. Jordan likes Ariel quite a bit, but as she is chaperoned by Miss Maitland the ogre, he does not get to converse with her as often as he would like. Also Ariel is very proper and would not dream of going against her chaperone.
Soon, a new character comes in on the scene, a Sir Henry Banks who presents himself as an old friend of Miss Maitland. They are quickly engaged and produce a Mr. Oswald Dudley as a prospective fiance for Ariel. Oswald is deadly dull and Ariel does not like him at all. After Oswald’s first visit, she and Jordan decide to pretend that they are engaged so she will not have to marry the odious Oswald. Jordan, Percy and her best friend Celia have finally made the oh-so-proper Ariel understand that since she is of age, Miss Maitland can not force her to marry against her will even though she is Ariel’s guardian.
One day when Ariel is with a party of young people that includes Jordan, someone takes a shot at them and wounds Jordan in the arm. They quickly run him to the doctor (while Ariel debates the propriety of allowing Jordan to rest his head in her lap). After this incident, Cousin Ivor’s death begins to look suspicious and Jordan and Percy begin to snoop. By the time the villains are foiled and all is right and tight again, the book was fading from my memory.
A Perilous Engagement is sweet enough, but oh so shallow! The characters had no bodies under their proper regency clothes. The plot had a lot of promise, but just as it was getting interesting, the characters would meet for a meal (where the food was described) or go to a party (where the clothing was described) or try to take some course of action (while they stopped to discuss the correct form of behavior).
As the editor and sometime writer for AAR’s Historical Cheat Sheet, I prize historical accuracy in romances. But halfway through A Perilous Engagement I was praying for someone to come riding up on a Harley – anything to give this sweet little confection of a book a jolt of spice.