The Lady in Question
I’m starting to develop a theory about writers who excel at books on the lighter side: Because those books are funny, fast-paced, and, therefore, easy to read, people assume that they’re just as easy to write. My guess is that the exact opposite must sometimes be true.
For example, in The Lady in Question, Victoria Alexander successfully juggles engaging, likable characters with a somewhat complicated premise, while also managing to deliver laugh-out-loud funny dialogue and some pretty hot sex. The result is a delicious confection guaranteed to blast just about anybody – no matter how crabby they might be – out of a lousy mood. And, heck, in the world we live in today, I think that is one major achievement.
Young Lady Wilmot, the former Miss Delia Effington, is a victim of that familiar Regency affliction: The Dreadful Scandal. In her case, the well brought up young woman hastily married a dashing young man who, soon after the wedding, leaves her a wealthy widow. Recently returned to London from her self-imposed six month exile, Delia is settling down into her new home and adjusting to her role as an independent, financially comfortable woman. Of inestimable aid in both endeavors is her new butler Gordon.
But, the bushy-eyebrowed, grey-haired Gordon isn’t exactly who he seems. As the reader quickly learns, Delia’s late husband was, in fact, in the employ of a super secret intelligence agency and a notebook detailing his last discoveries is missing. Gordon – really intelligence agent Viscount St. Stephens (otherwise known as Tony) – is dispatched to both find the notebook and protect Delia from the bad guys who just might be after the same thing.
While the plot here is a bit on the absurd side – Delia doesn’t recognize Gordon (minus his hair powder, fake eyebrows, and mustache) as Tony when they meet in society – this book works primarily because of Tony and Delia and their mutual skill at what really amounts to the conversational Olympics. These two are funny and their exchanges as both Delia and Tony and Delia and Gordon are nothing short of delightful.
Both Delia and Tony are characters I loved getting to know. Tony is smart, good at his job, and more than ready to check out this whole settling-down-and-having-a-family thing. As for our young widow, Delia’s first adventure (her hasty elopement) went a bit awry and this time out she’s determined to get it right. She’s forthright (but not feisty) and eager to love (but not in that unbelievable all-I-want-is-sex-not-marriage way) and more than deserving of nice guy Tony.
As far as quibbles go, the plot is silly. (Really silly.) And, it has to be admitted, the story is more than a bit predictable. (Really predictable.) But, for me at any rate, this is such a gosh-darn entertaining read that even the plot’s reliance on that painfully contrived Clark Kent-Superman scenario wasn’t enough to mar my enjoyment. I can’t quite say the same for Delia’s family, however, all of whom seemed to spring from the Central Casting School of Secondary Characters.
But, what the hey? Sometimes all of us need a book to make us laugh. And when a quintessentially amusing book is also an expertly written, thoroughly charming love story, it seems almost churlish to ask for more. But, be warned: Plot logic doesn’t reign supreme here, and while the The Lady in Question a book to enjoy, it’s decidedly not one to analyze.