Author: Carla Kelly
To be Released: December 1, 2013
Orignally Publisher: 1993
Publisher: Camel Press
Cynical, lazy Lord Grayson is coerced into delivering a message to lovely Katherine Billings, whose late father frittered away a fortune on artwork. All his purchases were forgeries, save one, which—if sold—would offer Kate a modest living. Meanwhile, Kate has bowed to necessity and set off for Wakefield to become a governess. Gently reared, she has no plans to become a scandalous actress, but Things Happen.
Injured by a highwayman hired by his greedy nephew, Lord Grayson staggers to a barn where a play is in progress. There he sees Kate, playing a small role. Through a mishap, she has ended up in Wickfield, not Wakefield, and is performing with the Bladesworth Traveling Company, an acting troupe.
What’s a lazy and cynical marquis to do? Lord Grayson—using his everyday name of Hal Hampton—joins the troupe, partly to protect himself from his nephew, but mostly to get to know Kate better. They both fall under the spell of the impecunious but talented Bladesworths. A charming French émigré, a single-minded Bow Street Runner, and love round out a summer where the repertory includes deception, faux marriage, the law, and enough unsavory characters to suit any would-be Shakespeare. After all, the play’s the thing.
Kate Billings’ father has died and left her nothing so she is on her way to Wakefield to be a governess. She accidentally gets off 30 miles too soon in Wickfield and someone is there to pick her up (actually he’s there to pick up an actress and he assumes that she is that actress). They realize the case of mistaken identity, but she has learned that her new employer is a lecher, and this nice young man is in need of an actress. She is well-versed in Shakespeare and the Bladesworth family are so incredibly kind — and so she joins the Bladesworth’s Traveling Company for one night.
Meanwhile, Henry Tewksbury-Hampton, Fifth Marquess of Grayson, is meeting with his solicitor who informs him that he has become frivolous and moody, and is turning into a lazy fellow, but that he can change again. And that he should change back to how he used to be. And marry and breed. And then the solicitor asks him to deliver a message to one of his other clients that she is not destitute after all and that she has a painting that is actually worth a handsome sum.
On his way to deliver this message to Miss Billings in Wakefield, he is set upon by a very inept highwayman – who accidentally shoots him. Along comes his “worthless young chub” of a nephew (who is also his heir) to “rescue” him… It turns out his nephew planned the “robbery” so he could rescue his uncle and have his allowance increased. But now his uncle has been shot and the nephew has to go off for help.
And Henry Tewksbury-Hampton is left to rescue himself. He finds the Bladesworth’s Traveling Company, and realizes that he has inadvertently found Miss Kate Billings. But he is not in a hurry to deliver the message and have her leave the traveling company, especially while he is recovering from the gunshot wound. And so he uses the name Hal Hampton and he and Kate both stay with the Bladeworth’s Traveling Company. When a Bow Street Runner is pursuing him, he and Kate pose as a married couple to try to throw the Bow Street Runner off their trail.
I loved both Hal – the rich, lazy marquess who has finally found a reason (Kate) to go out of his way and sacrifice a little – and Kate who is kind and generous and willing to take some risks especially if it will help someone else. But I think what I really loved about this book was the Bladesworth family – materially they had so little to give, and yet they shared everything they had. Even as their dreams are crashing down around them, Malcolm and Ivy Bladesworth continue to be kind and generous and loyal. It almost made me want to go tread some boards with them (by the way, if you don’t know what that means it’s a slang term for performing onstage in a theater).
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Review Copy