Third of the
Lady Fred Trilogy
Reviewed by Joy
Lady Winifred Westerly’s guardians are really scraping the bottom of the barrel now, looking for a husband to steady Lady Fred and make her respectable. Freddy’s godmother Lady Georgiana Evans invites to town a nice youngster with little fortune and no title, offering to recommend him for a baronetcy if he will marry Freddy. Freddy’s father orders her to marry a fortune-hunting member of Parliament, Lord Fordweather, in exchange for Lord Fordweather’s support on political issues. Both are absolutely determined she will not marry the man she loves, her cousin Dickie, Marquis of Danleigh.
Oh, you’re wanting to know what’s wrong with Dickie. Well, imagine the social tittle-tattle if Flighty Freddy marries Deadly Danleigh. Dickie got his nickname when he was boxing with Lord Inglestock, and Inglestock fell and received a dangerous head injury. Add in Dickie’s scandalous father, the ladykilling Duke of Darke, and his mother, who ran away from the Duke and then remarried him years later. Society cannot approve.
And you might be wondering what’s wrong with Freddy. Most of society thinks she is odd in her head. Her own father thinks she is half-witted. Of course, Lord Westerly hasn’t paid much attention. He is too busy thinking the worst of every woman he knows, especially his wife Alice, Freddy’s mother. Alice is mistress to any man of society who might pay her bills. When Alice is accused of blackmailing and murdering her most recent protector, it is the death knell for Freddy’s social position.
By this time, Freddy knows the drill: refute the accusations, distract any threatening persons, hide behind her mask of not knowing what is really going on so that everyone underestimates her. Except Dickie and his parents, of course – the only people who really understand her. It is so obvious to any reader that Freddy’s natural home is with the Darkes, that the matchmaking attempts of Freddy’s father and her godmother seem almost as criminal as the real killer of Sir Taverner.
Don’t look for Regency glamour in THE SCANDAL. In author Melissa McCann’s version, the denizens of Almack’s have their social knives out. The glamour is in the picture of “Devil Darke” racing into the ballroom just in time to effect a rescue. Dickie’s father is a pleasure to behold, a primitive, seductive male barely held in check by the rules of civilization, just enough of a recognizable type to tickle the reader’s funny bone.
Another entertaining character is the silly nemesis who calls himself the Executioner of Bow Street. Freddy and Dickie’s mother Laura earn laughs making fun of some of his most dramatic declamations from the earlier books. Then there is Lady Georgiana’s dog Dog, a parlor nightmare if there ever was one. The running gags about Dog are intended for people with an earthy sense of humor, but for those in the know, like Freddy, the techniques for dealing with Dog are good for a giggle.
I was disappointed in Freddy’s mother as a character. From snippets we learned about her in DARKE’S FOLLY, I hoped that Lady Alice Westerly would be a free-spirited lady with a practical kind of wisdom. She turns out to be stupidly oblivious, seeing only what she wants to see – no kind of mother figure for Freddy at all. I felt she deserved every problem she had, and didn’t deserve Freddy’s help. But Freddy’s social position must be salvaged so she can marry Dickie, so there is nothing else to do.
After DARKE’S FOLLY, I thought that McCann had found her footing in the suspense genre and that THE SCANDAL would have the same creative sparkle and delightful character interaction. I was disappointed by the amount of opposition Freddy receives from people who should understand her, and in the number of unpleasant people in her close social circle. I suppose I have some expectations of the Regency as a type, with the usual bright tone and lively pleasures. Melissa McCann doesn’t write to expectation. This is a good thing, but it requires the reader to clear one’s mind before starting to read. THE SCANDAL has some of the dark tones of a modern detective thriller, displaced into a Regency setting where they are not normally found.
March 2006 Review
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