I was contacted by the author of this short story a while back for a review. I received an electronic review copy.
The story is generally set in the Regency period, the love story for an older sister (Darcey) of a girl (Lilian) who ran off with her lover but has now returned to raise more scandal in London.
There is some history between the hero and the sister; his mother had applied to her for money but been ignored. Apparently not knowing the family, the hero assumes Darcey, the older ‘boring’ sister, rejected the mother and sets out to seduce her and leave her in order to avenge his honor.
Seduction/emotional manipulation as an appropriate response to “you didn’t answer my mom’s letter asking for money and I can’t be bothered to actually ask you about it” was disturbing. I don’t find anything romantic in the actions of a man who is trying to find ways to destroy a woman.
The story continues with them having heated scenes quoting Shakespeare at each other, mostly Romeo and Juliet, set during said hero’s extremely impoverished family’s annual theatrical ball (the juxtaposition of “he’s wearing old clothes/working for a living” with “they hold an annual ball” didn’t work for me either). And things resolve with a revelation of who everyone is and the quest for revenge brushed off as an issue of unread mail.
Several other things were jarring: people bouncing between “Miss/Mr” and “Lord/Lady” in their address; I was never never quite clear which title Darcey is supposed to have. Also, if her sister is now a widow–shouldn’t her last name not be the same as her unmarried sister? Further, if Darcey was 21 when this scandal occurred, her “coming out” wouldn’t have been pushed off–she would have been on her third season and likely married/engaged. Parents or chaperones for the women are oddly never mentioned.
The best scene was their meeting at the beginning of the book, before he sorts out who he believes she is. I was optimistic at that point, but ultimately disappointed and troubled by the intentions of the hero.
This would benefit from more editing and perhaps not having the hero spend the entire story thinking about how he plans to hurt the heroine.