What I've Read This Week . . .
A Valentine's Day Gambit by Monda Gedney -- Regency Romance
The Countess of Carrington is furious with her brother-in-law, Hayden St. James for taking her husband off gambling in the clubs. She fears he will gamble away the family fortune as her father once did. To put a stop to her husband's lack of judgment she intends to find a husband for St. James. St. James is known as The Constant Lover for he is a serious flirt whose relationships never last longer than three days. He has a collection of locks of hair and love letters from too many ladies to count and he has no intentions of settling down. Tired of his sister-in-law's schemes, St. James heads off to the country with his best friend Lord Stacey, in search of Stacey's wayward younger brother Laurie. St. James's trip to the country has him almost literally running into Julia Preston. Miss Julia Preston, a twenty-three year old spinster, has taken on the role of caretaker of her family since her mother's death. She doesn't mind that admirers have come and gone or that some gossips consider her "on the shelf." Her latest admirer was a Captain Chambers, who seems to have forgotten her in favor of her beautiful and wealthy cousin Anne. Anne's father, worried about his young daughter's attachment to Captain Chambers, decides to take Anne to London with Julia as chaperone. Julia is excited to go to London and see new things but she's worried about playing chaperone for her spoiled younger cousin. She's so distracted, she doesn't watch where she's walking. It's lucky St. James happened along or Julia would have met with an unfortunate demise. Julia is less than impressed with St. James's charm and proceeds to, in his words, "harangue" him. He enjoys teasing the young lady because she's such an easy target but there's something more about her that intrigues him. The more Julia hears about St. James, the more she is convinced he's nothing more than an ornament to society. She condemns his supposed lack of convictions and his flirtatious ways. However, what she doesn't know is that St. James is working hard to catch up to her younger brother and keep him from being sucked into the orbit of Lord Stacey's troublesome younger brother. Julia has a busy time worrying about Anne falling prey to fortune hunters, worrying about her brother Adrian and trying to keep St. James from winning her heart. When the gentlemen of the ton get a good look at the beautiful, but distant Anne, they bet that St. James can win over the new beautiful ice maiden. St. James refuses to have anything to do with the wager for he knows it would hurt Julia if he went through with it, but when he learns that Laurie forced Lord Stacey into accepting the bet, he feels he has no choice but to win or it would ruin Stacey. St. James has to find a way to win the wager and convince Julia that he's not just the frivolous young man she thinks him to be.
The basic plot outline of this book is similar to Regina Scott's The Unflappable Miss Fairchild, but nowhere near as good. The plot takes too long to set up; we don't even meet St. James until chapter 2 and Julia in chapter 3 and they don't meet each other until chapter 4. The romance is amusing and at times sweet. It's completely clean with kisses only and no sensual language. I like the relationship between the characters. There are too many plot threads and too many characters to keep track of. I prefer the straight up comedy of manners of Scott's book rather than a convoluted plot with villains and heroes. The plot does serve to help form St. James' character though but it drags on too long and the ending is rushed. I would rate this book as average and recommend it for those who like long, complicated plots and not to those who prefer quick, light reads.