Well his wife has caused another scandal. Julian Norcliff, Earl of Lockwood, is fed up with her this time. Julian and Eleanor have a marriage in name only, it was never consummated, not after Julian caught Eleanor with another man not more than an hour after the ceremony. This time, there is a death involved. Julian has decided to give Eleanor a choice; she can either stay in England and face the investigation, or she can leave the country and he will give her an allowance.
Laura Lancaster’s luck has not been good lately. The play she was in was closed down. Laura is from America, where she lived with her grandparents. After her grandparents died, she went to live in Paris with her mother. Laura is embarrassed by the fact that her mother is a courtesan. After her mother’s “protector’s” son approached her for the same type of arrangement, Laura ran away to England. She has been working as an actress ever since then. She shares an apartment with three other women in London’s stews. Luckily, her friend Celia has managed to get her a part in this play. Celia has a protector and tries to get Laura to do the same.
Eventually, Celia wears Laura down. Laura is presented at an event given by a French émigré as a potential mistress. Laura is still a virgin and is dressed all in white with little white cloth roses in her red hair.
Malcolm, Julian’s secretary, has told Julian that the latest gossip now is that Julian is more interested in him than in women. He has convinced Julian to take a mistress to stop the gossip.
Julian shows up at this event. He notices Laura and is struck by her beauty. He ends up rescuing her twice that evening. The next evening, he approaches Laura about becoming her protector. The arrangement he proposes is that she will live in a house, paid for by him, and will attend certain social engagements with him. Laura also demands that she will become his mistress in name only. She does not want a physical relationship with him. Julian is somewhat shocked by this but agrees. Julian will also provide a fitting wardrobe for her and transportation to and from the theatre as well as staff for her home.
Julian and Laura go to different places together, the gossip starts and the old rumors are forgotten. The two of them are very attracted to each other, but Laura is afraid that she will lose her heart if she shares Julian’s bed. One evening while Laura is in her dressing room, an old enemy shows up. It is the son that wanted her for his mistress in Paris. He threatens her with blackmail. He tells her that he will have Julian accused of treason if she will not give him money. It turns out that her mother is now mistress to a French General and it would probably be believed that she is writing to her mother and giving her secrets. Laura doesn’t know what to do or where to turn now.
This Regency definitely has it all, the murders, the evil characters, the poverty of the lower classes and, of course, the happily ever after. This is by no means a traditional Regency as there definitely is sex in this book. This book has the right number of sub-plots to keep it moving, but not so many that I became lost in them. I definitely did not suspect who the murderer was until the end of the book. This one definitely keeps you turning the pages to find out “who done it”. This is a very fast-paced, well-written story with well rounded, believable characters and was a delight to read.
Chere Gruver, September 2003