Mightier Than the Sword
Peggy Waide’s Mightier Than the Sword is a rather stock Regency-set historical featuring a war hero and bluestocking as its leads. While nothing particularly out of the ordinary, this light romp of a read isn’t totally without merit.
Adam Hawksmore, the Earl of Kerrick, has been imprisoned by the French, and branded as a traitor by the English. Now he has returned home, intending to clear his name. Sneaking into his home, he finds Lady Rebecca Marche there. She’s been banished to the Kerrick castle, ostensibly to check on its condition before Adam’s heir can take possession of it, but also because her father wishes to separate her from an unwanted suitor. Never mind that under her aunt’s lax chaperonage it might be easier to elope – she doesn’t wish to. Becca is a follower of Mary Wollstonecraft and views marriage as a form of slavery for women. Before adopting these views, she used to be infatuated with Adam, but he threw her declaration of love in her face and joined the Army.
But that was long ago, and though Adam and Becca squabble for a while because they have lots of presumptions about what the other is likely to be thinking, now they have a more pressing problem to deal with. He needs to investigate in London to find the real spy, but would be arrested if he showed up. Let me quote from the baffling blurb: “How could she hide a man as virile as he, in a way that would still allow him to clear his name? There seemed only one way: by dressing him as a poet.”
Is the logic behind this plot twist immediately clear to you? I’m afraid to ask, because it continues to elude me long after finishing the book. In this case masquerading as a poet means wearing outrageous clothes and an eye-patch, dyeing his hair, and adopting a flowery manner of speaking. (Aren’t you glad to know what all poets are like?) How this would fool anyone who knows him is beyond me, but his escape from the French prison and the way he dupes the magistrate later on suggest a great deal of credulity on everyone else’s part.
Waide drops in a few enticing hints about some minor characters. One is a self-made man who made his way from a penniless childhood on the docks to a successful career and finally an earldom. Another had to thieve in her youth but is now a noblewoman quite adept in dealing with the ton, even if she is a bit unconventional. Just how these transformations were possible is never explained, and without an explanation it’s hard to believe that the ton would not frown upon their pasts.
The romance between Adam and Becca is a game of tug-of-war. She chases him, he resists. Then he pursues her, she resists. Then he resists, she pursues. The switches seem rather abrupt sometimes, and their motivation unclear. Love scenes are short but intensely orgastic, rather quickly too.
Although the plot in Mightier Than the Sword is confusing, the romance somewhat unsatisfying, and the writing slightly anachronistic, I must add that I enjoyed its humor and an interesting encounter between Percy Bysshe Shelley and his mistress. If you’re just looking for a fun romance and logic and historical accuracy aren’t high on your list at the particular moment, this might work for you, particularly if you do as I did and read it while sitting on the patio with an ice-cold pina colada.