Lord Darlington's Darling
Grade : C+

It's mystifying why so many forceful noblemen of romance fiction give the time of day to so many quiet maidens. Building on this enigma, Lord Darlington's Darling is about a woman who eventually graduates from being a doormat - proving that she knows not only what she wants, but also (and perhaps more importantly) how to get it. While her story isn't terribly innovative, it certainly has its moments.

Miss Abigail Fairchilde has a problem. Three men are jostling for her attention: the enigmatic Lord Darlington, the dull Lord Fielding, and the rakish Mr. Farnham. This situation may not seem entirely undesirable for some; at least not for Bethany, Lord Darlington's beauteous sister and Abby's good friend. But Abby has another problem as well: she is so shy that it is painful for her to emerge from whichever wall she's desperately trying to fade into, at least long enough to express her wishes.

As it happens, Abby likes Lord Sylvan Darlington above anyone else. However, her sister and brother-in-law have made no secret of their desire to see her married off to Lord Fielding. Even more detrimental to Abby's budding romance with Lord Darlington is her secret: Mr. Farnham is actually not Abby's suitor but Bethany's. Since Mr. Farnham practically has a sign around his neck saying "Destitute Scoundrel Seeks Gullible Heiress," Lord Darlington has forbidden his sister to see him. Under pressure by Bethany, Abby is passing messages between her friend and her illicit beau. When Bethany finds herself in a compromising situation, Abby must find the will to stand up to others - not only to help her friend, but also and ultimately, to win Lord Darlington.

With too much hand-wringing and a fretful whine or two, Abby doesn't appear to be all that likable at first. Her attitude toward her family could only be described as abject obsequiousness, and her involvement in her friend's love affair feels faintly voyeuristic. It's therefore gratifying to see her later rebel against her well-meaning but oblivious oppressors - which is the point of the book. Her scheme to help Bethany may make Abby appear to be the classic TSTL heroine, but her response couldn't be truer to her character. Her actions contribute to an exhilarating climax that does much to redeem the book's pallid beginning.

As for the man who finds Abby more exciting than most people give her credit for, Lord Darlington is an intriguing suitor at best and an ambivalent hero at worst. His single-minded pursuit of the heroine - who seems always ready to collapse from sheer nerves and her own fascination with him - is fun to observe, especially when he outsmarts his rival, Lord Fielding, or Abby's disapproving relatives, the Crockers. But in the end, Lord Darlington proves to be too proprietary and heavy-handed for his own good. His dogged prejudice against his sister's suitor is ironic in light of his frustration over the Crockers' prejudices against him. (After running excessive debts from gaming, his dissolute father had mortgaged all the family properties. Sylvan has spent most of his adult life working to pay these off.) His possessiveness over Abby also results in a clichéd quarrel where he's completely at fault but for which he's forgiven too easily.

While their relationship doesn't begin with love at first sight, Abby and Lord Darlington shoot off some magnificent sparks throughout. It strains credulity to contemplate how these two ever got together in the first place, but their interaction is the high point of the book.

Some of the other characters are one-dimensional, however. The flighty twit Bethany is every bit as predictable as her Mr. Farnham, whose lecherous opportunism is (naturally) intuitively evident to everyone. The stodgy Lord Fielding's raison d'être is to make Lord Darlington appear even more dashing. And Abby's mother is puzzlingly irrelevant, rendering no more significance to the story than if she'd been absent.

Though it may be lacking in the originality department, both in the characterization and the title, Lord Darlington's Darling is entertaining and fast-paced. But if we ever see the publication of sequels (Blythe Barnhill jokingly predicts that they might be called Sir Honeywell's Honey and Mr. Sweetwater's Sweetheart), we could only hope for more sympathetic characters and fewer stereotypes. Otherwise, all you have is an average read that's mercifully easy to breeze through.

Grade : C+
Book Type: Regency Romance

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : January 12, 2001

Publication Date: 2002

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Recent Comments …

  1. This sounds great. I’ve been reading a lot of historical mysteries lately and loving them, though less Victorian and more…

Noelle Leslie de la Cruz

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