Lady Hilary's Halloween
It is not my fault – the back-blurb made me do it! It tempted me with the story of two archeologists in a Regency setting, and what good is a temptation if you don’t fall for it? I settled down for a cozy read, but was mired in a plot device that infringed upon the core romance.
Lady Hilary Merton has a burning interest in Roman England, and is excavating a villa on the neighboring estate. When James Wincanon, one of England’s foremost antiquarians, buy the estate, an uneasy alliance springs up between the two. They try to protect not only the villa, but also a more direct relic of the Roman age, from the greedy hands of James’ competitor, Mr. Cheeke. As events progress, the close cooperation turns to love which both hesitate to admit.
James is convinced every unmarried lady is out to snare him, since he does have a lot of money. Lady Hilary’s interest in ancient things is at first regarded as a trick, and only grudgingly does he acknowledge her expertise. Hilary, on the other hand, finds him a rude boar, and cares nothing for him except as a colleague. It takes quite some time for this pair to snap out of their suspicious mode, and the road there was obscured by more interaction with secondary characters than between themselves. Even when they professed their love, I kept seeing them more as academic colleagues than husband and wife.
This book is a time-travel by proxy. While I remain unconvinced that the time-travel plot device works for any characters but the main ones, this book might have pulled it off given enough space to evolve this gambit. I have read other Signet’s that featured time-travel, but there, the travel event is quickly dealt with. In Lady Hilary’s Halloween, the time-travel plot device was more convoluted and the space restriction made James and Hilary’s interaction with a character named Rufus sketchy, and added to my confusion.
Another problematic detail was the lack of definition of whether the characters spoke English or Latin. It was a bit difficult to follow who understood whom and when, not to mention the use of Regency phrases when the speakers allegedly conversed in Latin.
A plot device too unwieldy for the format hampered an otherwise pleasant story. I’m not sure I would have preferred the book twice as long, or if the time-travel should have been dropped. What I do know is that Lady Hilary’s Halloween is a barely acceptable read for a rainy afternoon, particularly if you like Regencies that happen to be weird time-travels. But, I’ll be more careful about those tempting back-blurbs in the future.