Masquerading the Marquess
Masquerading the Marquess is a charming and enjoyable debut for author Anne Mallory. Although there are some elements that are a bit clichéd, as well as minor problems with the flow of the book, in the end the story combines some unique and amusing characters and incidents.
Calliope Minton lives on the fringes of society, certainly not a member of the ton and yet far from being common. When her mother dies and she is rejected by her father’s family, Calliope is taken in by a kind family of stage actors. Under their guidance, she learns to use her acting abilities not on the stage, but to blend into society, taking on a variety of disguises and jobs in order to make a living as a caricaturist. The elite provide Calliope with plenty of scandal in order to make her drawings and her living. And no one is immune to her wicked sense of humor, especially not the arrogant likes of James Trenton.
James Trenton has little desire to go gallivanting from party to party with the spoiled and rich elite. Yet, more and more he finds himself attending the functions of the ton in order to verbally spar with a mere lady’s companion. The woman is so completely different from the insipid girls of his set that James cannot help but be intrigued. But when she disappears only to resurface as the mistress of a man James knows quite well, James thinks something more sinister might be in the works. Still, even though he thinks Calliope is the mistress of his good friend Stephen, James cannot stop his growing attraction for the woman.
When Stephan turns up missing, Calliope is the first person whom James suspects. James makes it his duty to stick to Calliope and find out if she is involved, but in the end, it is James who protects Calliope. Calliope, not surprisingly, is only posing as Stephen’s mistress for the sole purpose of dreaming up new drawings, but she had no idea that by doing so she would end up in the constant company of James Trenton, the man she supposedly despises. Although both James and Calliope try to fight their growing attraction, they must come together in order to solve a mystery and to find Stephen. When Calliope’s life is in danger, James must not only find his friend, but also save the woman he has come to care about.
Although one of the better Regency-set romances I’ve come across lately, the book still suffers from some minor problems. The suspense plot was rather weak and tended to drag out the story, especially in the middle. There were also scenes and character descriptions that were slightly clichéd. The main drawback to the story, however, is that the scenes tended to be a bit disjointed, not flowing smoothly from downtime to suspense.
The characters and their relationships are the better part of this novel. Although there is not much back-story – particularly early on – by the end of the book I felt as if I knew the characters quite well. James plays the wounded hero in need of love rather well, and Calliope is an interesting heroine with unique abilities. The primary and secondary characters were an equal blend of strength, humor, and likability. And the relationship between James and Calliope is sweet and romantic.
Masquerading the Marquess is one of the better historical romances that I’ve read recently and, as a debut author Anne Mallory shows strong promise.