Amy Corbett, governess to the Donegal family in Ireland, was upgraded to the role of Chaperone to their 18 year old daughter Bridget who publicly eschewed marriage, but changed her mind when confronted with the love of a handsome young English Gentleman who could afford to keep her in a lifestyle in which she would be more than happy to become accustomed, resulting is a swift marriage. The Donegals, tooting Amy’s success, attracted the attention of Duke Sylverton who was having difficulty getting his spoiled youngest daughter to accept a proposal, and suddenly Miss Corbett found herself in the whirl of the London Ton attending all the entertainments offered during The Season. Her charge, Lady Rowena Revington, was amazingly beautiful, but also willful and not inclined to give up her personal pleasures for life as a wife to some stuffy aristocrat. Rowena made a habit of enticing gentleman to declare their love then handily rejecting them, all while maintaining an air of impeccable decorum. This worried Amy, not just for the hurt feelings of all these lovelorn men, but also her own personal fate if she failed at her task, as she had little funds and no where to go. However, if successful, the promised bonus would allow her to live a modest lifestyle out in a little cottage in Kent, perhaps using her talents as a seamstress to meet her basic needs.
Lord Dante Pierson, a viscount who was considered a rogue and a rake by polite society, sees Lady Rowena’s visage as she travels by in her carriage and decides that this is the angel who can bring about his transformation. His heavily mortgaged home of Delacorte needs attention especially since the land steward, Mr Lincoln, has disappeared with the quarterly earnings of the staff. Unfortunately, Pierson has been in the habit of ignoring his problems through a haze of drink and gambling. In fact, when he sees this transforming vision, he is too drunk to walk unaided, relying on two women of the night to assist him to his home. To add insult to injury, Rowena is having a good laugh at his expense when her carriage splashes the Viscount as it passes.
Somehow Lord Pierson, with the assistance of his best friend, Lord Bainbridge, must find a way back into the good graces of society so he can properly woo this prospective lady love. When Rowena learns of his naughty past, she seems interested, so Amy encourages the relationship. Pierson tries to get in Miss Corbett’s good graces so she’ll allow the outings necessary in a proper courtship, and Amy earns the confidences of the viscount as he vows to make improvements to his home so his heirs will have something worthwhile to inherit. Bainbridge also shows her some courtesy as he watches out for his friend’s interests. With the advice of the more experienced Chaperone, Mrs Bower, Amy tries to do the right thing for all parties concerned, ignoring her own growing feelings towards the kind hearted Pierson.
There are a few twists and turns in The Chaperone’s Secret by Donna Lea Simpson leaving one wondering who, if anyone, will end up together in the end. Simpson also delves into the topic of the life of the lower classes during the Regency Era and how they are dependent on the largesse of their employers who expect long hours of work for little pay with the constant threat of being kicked out without a reference leading to a life on the streets.
Originally published in 2004 as Lord Pierson Reforms, Simpson presents an Interesting premise with likable characters (even the unredeemable daughter seemed to have a heart) and while there is a bit too much repetition, it is not overwhelming. Perhaps a little more show and a little less tell would make this a better read.
Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.