Desert Isle Keeper
The Fourth Season
Lady Bets Fortescue is idling through her fourth season in Regency London – to her mama’s despair. The Fortescue’s are desperately short of funds, something they are at pains to conceal from the rest of the ton. This makes it imperative that 23-year-old Bets marry well. If only she wouldn’t be so terribly picky in choosing a husband, or stop incessantly mothering her suitors.
Rob, the Earl of Burlingham, is entering the marriage mart, looking for an heiress. Rob’s family is teetering on the brink of ruin, a fact he is at pains to keep from reaching the tattle-mongers. It is imperative that Rob marries well. If only he didn’t have such a bad reputation, and could just keep away from that brandy.
Bets practically falls into Rob’s arms when she is thrown from a curricle in the park. They each see the other as the solution to their problems. After all, Bets is the daughter of the late Earl of Stanford, who was well known for his immense wealth and grand estates. And Rob’s parents, the Marquess and Marchioness of Fleet, must truly love the countryside since they have sold their grand London house and rusticated in Dorset for years.
So begins the courtship dance of Bets and Rob. It is a dance of honest mistakes and penury. There are hilarious efforts on both parts to hide their mutual financial situation. The fact that Rob’s servant has no suitable clothes has nothing to do with the creation of a new fashion by having his tiger dressing up in a Grecian toga made from an old sheet, does it? And the Fortescue ladies’ insistence on sitting in a certain chair wouldn’t mean there is a rip in the chair cover?
No comedy of manners would be complete without complications. Rob’s path to true love is complicated by his cousin George’s machinations that very nearly cause Rob to be barred from the hallowed halls of Almack’s. Lady Stanford tries to redirect her daughter’s interest when rumors of Rob’s finances reach her ears. But nothing can prevent love, and eventually Rob proposes, knowing full well the truth, and does not care about it as long as he may have his Bets. And it wouldn’t be a happy ending unless Rob and Bets’ monetary trouble were partially cured.
There are many reasons why The Fourth Season is one of my few Regency keepers. An experienced heroine with both sense and heart is a rare treasure. A hero whose wooing of his lady is so creative and who is shown to struggle with his vices is worth far more than the rake who, after one look and a few kisses from his fair one, is cured from ever walking the primrose path again. Above all, the reason that Rob and Bets act in such mercenary ways is perfectly understandable. They may be fortune hunters, but only in order to help provide for their families. Greed isn’t in their vocabularies, unless you define greed as pining for the ability to afford a coal fire or tea made from fresh leaves. Their love is based on friendship and liking, which eventually will triumph.
I closed The Fourth Season with a smile in my heart. When I have overdosed on tortured heroes and heroines in distress, I’ll know where to turn to bring back the light and joy of reading for pleasure.