When Dashing Met Danger
Alexander Scarston, the Earl of Selbourne, is a – wait for it – Regency Earl Spy. Unfortunately, he is on forced leave, for his superiors are afraid that Alex’s cover in France has been blown. He is chafing at the bit, for he knows Something Big is in the works and he has been passed over for the assignment. Instead of doing his job, he is stuck in London during the Season, going to balls.
He does find a bit of excitement at one ball by rescuing Lucia Dashing (ah! now the horrific title become clear!) from her overeager fiancé. Alex and Lucia are relations of a sort; her sister Francesca is married to his brother Ethan. They haven’t seen each other since the wedding, and while Lucia finds that her adolescent crush on Alex has only intensified, Alex is stunned to see how beautiful she is now that she is all grown up, though she is still as obstinate and argumentative as always.
Their paths quickly cross again when Lucia’s twin brother is deemed missing. He sailed to Greece on a Grand Tour, but no one has heard from him and he has drawn no money from his account. Further checking shows that he never boarded that ship for Greece, so where is he? Now, here’s what I want to know: why didn’t the Dashings, who are purported to be such a close family, go to the ship to see him off? It just seemed odd to me that it would take them months to figure this out. At any rate, Lucia’s father, Viscount Brigham, calls in his son-in-law for help, who in turn enlists the aid of his spy brother, Alex, who has very good contacts in Europe. However, it is blatantly clear to anyone who reads the Prologue what has happened to Lucia’s brother. Apparently Alex didn’t read the Prologue, though he was in it.
Lucia has a reputation within her family for mad schemes, even though she is constantly telling them that she is all grown up and has put her wildness behind her. She sees her engagement to a repulsive toad, but a toad her father wishes her to marry to help further his political career, as proof that she is an adult. Funny. I didn’t. She is admonished to keep her nose out of the search for her brother, but we all know she can’t and won’t. Lucia is overly feisty. I don’t usually mind a feisty heroine as long as she’s not stupid and feisty. Usually Lucia’s feistiness manifests itself in her outspokenness, which is fine, but then she “tosses her curls” – Lucia is constantly tossing her curls – and does something like climbing into Alex’s window at midnight.
This was an almost schizophrenic read. Galen is a new author, and an RWA Golden Heart finalist, and at times a bit of dialogue would sparkle through, or an unusual scene would have me smiling, giving a hint of her talent. My favorite unusual, funny “bit” is the fact that Lucia’s mother is enamored of all things Italian and is constantly spouting Italian phrases in an execrable accent. At one point when Alex has addressed her as “Madam,” she glares at him until Lucia mouths at him and he says “Scusi, Lady Brigham, I meant signora.” But then it’s back to the clichés: Lucia is marrying a toad to make her Daddy happy, even though it will make her miserable. Alex refuses to fall in love because his father was a fool for love: “He was a fool to let her go. But he would be a bigger fool to fall in love with her.”
In the end, the clichés and stereotypical characters were too much for me to enjoy the book, despite the occasional clever turns of phrase or interesting bits.