Lady Delafont's Dilemma
Argh! Yet another person’s title given wrong. Emily Delafont, Marchioness of Sedgely is not Lady Delafont – she’s Lady Sedgely. It’s Lady Title, not Lady Surname! Is that so hard?! Plenty of other writers of both Regency Romance and historicals set in the regency period get the titles right. Where is that editor….
But you know what? After I had read a couple of pages I calmed down and, even though as editor of AAR’s Historical Cheat Sheet, I blush to admit it – I didn’t care about the wrong title. Well, not too much. The characters were so good and so real and I was so caught up in them and their story that I only occasionally muttered “It’s Lady Sedgely, not Lady Delafont, dammit” as the story unfolded.
Emily and Baxter, Marquess of Sedgely, had married for love. She was poor, but of a good family and they had fallen in love practically at first sight. For years, theirs had been a relationship of love, respect and deep passion. But over time, things had gradually gone sour. There was no Big Event, no adultery, no horrid deed to mark the end of their marriage, just growing indifference, rudeness to each other, and a lack of their former intimacy. Their relationship was not helped by the fact that they could not conceive a child, and Baxter’s mother, the horrid Dowager Marchioness, never let Emily forget it. Finally, they agreed to live apart.
When the book begins, Emily and Baxter catch sight of each other at the theatre where Baxter has gone to see the debut of his mistress, Belle Gallant. Emily has gained a stone or two, but is still beautiful, still charming, and they both realize that the love and desire that they both shared has not diminished during the time they have spent apart.
Complications come in the form of Etienne Marchant, a young Frenchman who loves beautiful older women and wants Emily to be his lover. Baxter’s feelings toward his mistress have changed as well. She had always been the aggressor in their relationship, and Baxter would like to break off with her while not hurting her. A couple of secondary characters, Baxter’s aunt Lady Dianne (Dodo) Delafont, and his best friend Sylvester Lessington, do their best to gently nudge Emily and Baxter back together where they belong.
As long as the focus of the story was on Baxter and Emily, I was very happy. Donna Simpson’s handling of them and their feelings for each other reminded me of Carla Kelly and how she handles her characters (and I can pay no higher compliment). But about two thirds of the way through the book, the author veered off with a sub-plot that sadly sidetracked the story.
It is when a young friend Emily’s, Lady Grishelda May Van Hoffen, appears on the scene that the story went south for me. Grishelda’s horrid mother has planned to have her kidnapped, raped and married off to an old roue, and Emily and Baxter go off to save her. While this does get Baxter and Emily together, they were doing quite nicely on their own with a little help from Aunt Dodo and Lessington. The kidnapping is an obvious set-up for the next book in this series and the big emphasis on Grishelda and her plight only takes the focus off Baxter and Emily at a time when it should be forefront in the book.
Another problem I had with this book involves the characters’ names. Everyone in the book refers to Baxter Delafont, Marquess of Sedgely, as Del except for Emily who always calls him Baxter. When he is referred to as Baxter and Del in the same sentence, the casual reader will be quite confused. Also, Lady Grishelda at one point declares that she has always hated her name and from now on she will be May – and she is May from that point on. Again, the casual (or speedy) reader will be baffled. And there is still that problem with titles….
It’s a shame that Lady Delafont’s Dilemma fell apart at the end, because the beginning of the book is so very good. The first book in the series Lord St. Claire’s Angel is by far the better one, so if you have not read anything by Donna Simpson, I encourage you to read that one first. Simpson leaves a number of plot threads untied in this book so I will definitely read the last book in the series Lady May’s Folly, due to be released in February of 2001.
Despite the problems I had with this book, I still think Donna Simpson shows great promise as writer. Her characters are something special indeed, and if she can only smooth out the plots and get the character’s titles right, she will be one of the best in the business.