Lady Miranda's Masquerade
When it comes to Regency Romance, we have the excellent, the inoffensive, and the terminally silly. Try as it may, Lady Miranda’s Masquerade comes off as inoffensively silly. It is not just the silly hero and the heroine. It is not just the weak plot. It is not just that the book reads like it was run through a Regency.101 word processor. It is the combination of all of the above that I found difficult embrace.
Lady Miranda runs away from her wicked step-brother, who wants to marry her off in order to gain control of her fortune (we never learn how). After having been run over on the road she loses consciousness long enough to be taken in by Charles, Lord Cresswood, who thinks she’s a swindler due to a mistaken identity. (The true swindler is never revealed.) From her sickbed, Miranda provides sage bedside advice, and Cresswood’s family takes to her at once. But Cresswood himself needs more time before he decides he is able to love and trust her. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the plot. Of course, there is an appearance by Miranda’s dastardly step-brother and some antics by Cresswood’s family members, but in essence that is it.
It would take truly unforgettable characters to breathe life into such a thin plot. It would be difficult, but it can be done. Unfortunately, Miranda and Charles don’t have what it takes to compensate for the slightness of plot. Miranda is suitably incapacitated and spends a lot of time in bed or being carried about, all the while providing her attendants with the kind of advice you find in a column of “Dear Abby.” Charles worries about whether the stranger he’s entertaining under his roof is what she seems, but is strangely reluctant to actually broach the subject with Miranda. Instead of confiding in his family, or asking her straight out, he hums and haws and suddenly finds himself in love with her. Actually there is a precedent for how to discreetly check out a lady’s quality. Does anyone remember H. C. Andersen’s fairy tale about the princess who slept on a pea?
Lady Miranda’s Masquerade is a prime example of the fallacy that if you stuff enough cant and paraphernalia into a manuscript you can create a good Regency Romance. It does take somewhat more than that. Interesting characters and a plot that makes sense are essential to any romance. For a traditional regency you’ll also need clever conversation. In this case, the lavish icing cannot conceal the lack of cake underneath.
I love the occasional Regency Romance – I’m happy as can be with those by Anne Douglas, Patricia Oliver, and Carola Dunn. Truth to tell, when I’m in the “zone,” my cravings could make me eligible for Over-Readers Anonymous. But Lady Miranda’s Masquerade doesn’t sate the need, so I’m on my way to the bookstore for another Regency fix.