Monday, February 16, 2009

The Lady in Question - Margaret Westhaven

Dangerous Deceptions

Beautiful Lady Antonia Worthington did not shrink from playing a cat-and-mouse game with the law to save her village from ruin. But when the law came to be embodied in the devastatingly handsome, shockingly libertine Sir Owen Longfort, the stakes were raised perilously high.

Antonia had to deceive Sir Owen about her secret life. And she had to hide from him the storm he stirred in her heart. For it would mean ruin if this grimly determined government agent unmasked her as an outlaw instead of a lady — and even worse if this irresistible rake discovered she was a woman in love ...

I quite enjoyed this book. It had a somewhat unusual plot, a likeable hero and heroine, and two fun secondary romances. All in all, not bad!

However what stood out for me in this book and made it quite memorable is the take-in that is the back cover blurb! (If you skipped reading it, just scroll a bit upwards and do so now, so you can understand what I am talking about). It clearly says that the heroine, Lady Antonia, is an outlaw. And Sir Owen is a government agent. So here we have our conflict between hero and heroine, an essential part of any romance plot. And within the first couple of pages we learn that Sir Owen is investigating smuggling activities in the area, and a group of smugglers in particular: Those lead by a lady, known as ‘The Lady’ in the area. Her identity is a mystery, and Sir Owen is full of admiration and fascination for the elusive and courageous ‘Lady’. So the reader now also knows that the illegal activities the heroine is involved in (as the back blurb says) is smuggling.

So far so good. You can imagine my surprise, when just a few pages in the book we find out that the heroine is not the Lady !! Yes, you read that right. She is not! The Lady is her sister. Lady Antonia lives a virtuous and law abiding life, and has nothing to do with smuggling or smugglers. (She knows her sister is the Lady of course). What a take in ! :) I guess when summarising the plot in the back cover, it did not sound very exciting to say the heroine is well just an ordinary lady, but she has a very out of the ordinary, exciting and fascinating sister who is the leader of a group of smugglers. So when the facts do not fit what the person who wrote the back blurb had in mind, they just changed the facts! :) I know the plot summaries in the back cover are not very enlightening and some times the exaggerate some things, other details are vague etc, but never had I encountered an outright lie before! :)

Despite, or maybe because, of my surprise at this turn of events, I quite enjoyed this book. It had the added bonus of this unexpected plot twist right in the beginning (un-intended by the author, of course :). And I quite liked Lady Antonia, who was charming and likeable in her own way, and was not at all overshadowed by her more dashing sister.

While on that night stake-out to spy on the smugglers, Sir Owen gets hits on the head by a smuggler, and the smugglers transport the injured man to Antonia’s home, so she can have him returned to his inn. Sir Owen briefly opens his eyes, sees Antonia, and logically assumes she is the Lady. So when he next sees her he quizzes her, trying to elicit a confession. Antonia realises he thinks she is the Lady, but she can not say "It is not me, it is my sister", so she plays along, not admitting that she is the Lady, but allowing Sir Owen to continue to think she is.

There is also a secondary romance between the real Lady, and an injured French spy. And one between Sir Owen sister, Eliza, and the younger son of a duke who prefers to work as a groom to earn his living, rather than live the life of an idle gentleman. Eliza, being an eccentric and having strange ideas about social equality and complete disregard for titles is fascinated, and so was I. My democratic/egalitarian notions were gratified by these two eccentrics (for their time), and I very much enjoyed their story as well.

All in all I thought this was a very enjoyable book.

Grade 3.5/5




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