The Purloined Papers
Allison Lane brings the story of the Seabrook family to a close in The Purloined Papers. For a short book, there’s a lot going on – lots of characters, complex relationships, and a murder sub-plot as well. This plot-heavy story results in the romance being somewhat marginalized, but the characters and the storyline were interesting enough to compensate for the lack of a strong central romance. I ended up enjoying the book very much.
Rather than marry to recoup the fortune her father lost gaming, Chloe Fields cuts ties with her family and becomes a companion to the nasty-tempered (and more than just a little crazy) Laura Seabrook, having been offered the position by long-time family friend and Laura’s brother, William Seabrook. Chloe has been with Laura for two years and has saved every shilling toward her goal of buying herself a little cottage and supporting herself by teaching as a day governess.
When the story beings, Chloe receives word that her her father has died under suspicious circumstances. At the same time, her childhood friend Andrew Seabrook returns home to recuperate from a leg wound. Andrew and Chloe parted under painful circumstances eleven years ago, when he made advances toward her that shocked her, and caused him to suffer the pains of a guilty conscience. Andrew’s return brings back all their old love for each other, but they are faced with lots of problems:
- Andrew is a soldier who would like to sell out, but all he knows is soldiering. While in the army he has developed a talent for architectural drawing but he knows nothing about engineering and structure.
- Laura’s father’s death is very suspicious. Was he killed? By whom? And how did he find the means to leave her money for a dowry when everyone knew he was bankrupt?
- Laura’s brother is angry that she was left money (he has gambled away his own), and as the new head of the family, he is in a position to hurt her socially.
Finally there is Laura Seabrook. Readers of The Notorious Widow and The Rake and The Wallflower are familiar with the vicious, malicious and crazed Laura. In this book she turns her spite on her brother William, who is about to marry Martha Truitt, the woman he loves. But Martha is a cit and that’s not good enough for Laura. Laura also vents her spleen toward Chloe. Although Chloe is of good family, according to Laura she has lost all consequence by taking a position as a companion, and Laura is mean enough and smart enough to ruin Chloe, especially when she realizes that Andrew loves her.
There is enough here for a long historical romance. There are times when the wealth of plot and char acters threatens to overwhelm the book, but for the most part Allison Lane is in firm control of her story. The two main characters were an excellent match, and I quite fell in love with Andrew myself. At one point, Chloe muses that he has always had a kind heart. Andrew is the best sort of regency gentleman. A man of honor, courage and inherent kindness whose word is better than any contract. Chloe matches him for intelligence and is also very kind hearted. Since they share a past history, this is an excellent example of a friends becoming lovers story, and it has such a wonderfully happy ending.
I have to mention an excellent scene. Andrew is talking to Chloe about his decision to leave the Army. He tells her about the burning of Washington D.C. and how that incident, the attack of a national symbol, galvanized the Americans and led to the defeat of the British. Although this book would have been written before September 11, I could not help but think of the World Trade Center when I read it.
The Purloined Papers can be read by itself but the whole trilogy is so good, you will want to get the other books. I have read all of Allison Lane’s books, and I think this is her best set of connected stories. Those who love traditional regencies, but like them a little dark in tone will love how Allison Lane handles the genre.