Miss Carlyle's Curricle
I so enjoyed Karen Harbaugh’s last Regency Romance, Cupid’s Kiss, that I was really expecting big things from Miss Carlyle’s Curricle. Unfortunately, I found it to be disappointingly average. It’s not the worst Regency in the world, but it really isn’t fresh or new either.
Diana Carlyle is devastated when her beloved Uncle dies in an accident during a curricle race. When his will is read, she is shocked to find that if she marries the heir to her uncle’s earldom, she will receive a considerable dowry. Then the heir is announced, and everyone in the family is surprised to discover that it is a distant relation, Gavin Sinclair, who will inherit.
Gavin is an odd, secretive man with a mysterious past. He is obviously wealthy, yet he seems ignorant about many of the rules of society. He claims to have fallen in love with Diana at first sight, but since he is a stranger to her she has trouble believing it. However, as Diana spends time with him and he steals a kiss or two, she finds herself liking him more and more. Then both Diana and Gavin begin to suspect that her uncle’s death was not an accident. Shortly thereafter, the two are caught in a couple of compromising situations and they decide to marry. But just when they seem to be finding happiness together, it appears that both their lives could be in danger. Though both are willing to sacrifice their lives for the other, they hope to concoct a scheme that will trap the villain without further “accidents.”
Are you a fan of “The Big Secret”? If so, you might enjoy this book more than I did. Miss Carlyle’s Curricle is one of those books in which the hero’s big secret is also a secret to the reader until the end of the novel. When it is finally revealed, it actually seems disappointing and anticlimactic. I wondered why the heroine (and the reader) couldn’t have just been told right off.
Perhaps Harbaugh kept the “secret” so long because the villain wasn’t a secret. I guessed who he was on page three, and even the hero and heroine knew who he was long before the end of the book. For a while I hoped the author would throw a curve ball and make the villain someone totally unexpected, but that never happened. It would have been nice if there had been at least one other suspect to make things interesting.
The book wasn’t all bad. I liked Diana, who was an excellent horsewoman and an expert on carriages and racing. Her single London season was a dismal failure, which I thought added to her interest. Gavin wasn’t bad either, outside of his penchant for unnecessary secrecy. The two share some really nice scenes with some witty banter, and their love scenes are great.
Still, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this book had been written on autopilot. The good scenes merely served as a reminder that the rest of the book could have been better. Harbaugh is a talented author, but she’s not at her best here.