The Prince Regent is holed up at Carleton House after several unsuccessful attempts on his life. He needs to discover who is behind the dastardly plot of eliminating the heir to the throne of England, especially since his father, King George, is not in good health. The Prince turns to the trusted Lord Wellesley for a recommendation and thus begins his association with the best British spy available, Captan Jack Dryden. Jack, while humbly accepting the honor, points out that he doesn’t have the background necessary to mingle with The Ton in order to begin the investigation. The Prnce chuckles and suggests he needs the help of Lady Daphne, daughter of Lord Sidworth. Daphne is an original, a women with a sharp mind who doesn’t bother with the accoutrements of fashion yet is still the darling of the aristocracy, never wanting for a dance partner. Her knowledge about the Prince’s entanglements and her ability to be discreet make her an indispensable asset to Captain Jack. To keep up appearances, Daphne and Jack pretend to be engaged, but, since Jack is not a member of the aristocracy, Daphne invents a backstory to make him acceptable to her discerning father. Jack Rich, the “wealthy South African Diamond Mine owner” is readily accepted as a potential son-in-law amongst a family with six daughters, and is thus able to begin his quest for the truth. Daphne helps him navigate through the possible suspects including the Regent’s disgruntled family members, as well as his lovers and their spouses. With His Lady’s Assistance by Cheryl Bolen in Book One in the Regent Mysteries Series.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for the handsome Captain to fall in love with the highly compatible Daphne. She too can’t help but have feelings for her incredibly good looking partner. She tries to update her wardrobe and hairstyle, but only succeeds in making Jack jealous when other men start to take notice. The Captain prefers his faux fiancé with her everyday looks, including the ever present spectacles. Unfortunately, even though they suit one another, an Earl’s daughter will never be allowed to marry the second son of a country squire. A good portion of the novel is spent with both protagonists lamenting the fact they can never be together as husband and wife.
Jack is kind of stuffy, with a rigid code of conduct that limits his sexual exploits to a kiss here or there. Twenty four year old spinster Daphne, while excellent in problem solving skills, is totally naive as far as the sex act is concerned. Don’t expect any graphic scenes where she and Jack consummate their romantic feelings. The plot focuses on the two resolving the mystery and then overcoming the discrepancy of their stations so that Lord Sidworth will approve their eventual marriage.
While this storyline is unusual, the repetitions in dialogue, the ignorance of Daphne, and the prudish behavior of Jack distracts from the overall enjoyment. I would have liked more interaction between the Sidworth family as the dynamics between the siblings and their parents had a lot of interesting potential. The mystery is slow to play out with one dead end after another and the villain comes out of nowhere (a theme throughout the Regent Mysteries Series).
With some dialogue editing and a little fleshing out of the secondary characters, this could have been a much better Regency Romance. However, the details surrounding the lives of British Royalty during the Regency era was fascinating. Three stars.