Sometimes when you go digging through the dust and cobwebs of the past, all that happens is a sneeze. But other times you find a forgotten treasure and you say to yourself -- now I know why this author is still around. Book Review: The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh The Plumed Bonnet
is another 2-in-1 re-releases of Mary. Balogh
's traditional regency.
First published in 1996, it is connected to the Stapleton-Downs series. This is a story of misconception and misunderstanding. While the story has a strong beginning, it is a tad bit slow in the middle, but comes to a satisfying ending. The hero of the books is Alistair, Duke of Bridgewater, and he has had a strong presence in some of the previous books. He's the guy in the background handing out wise advice, which he does not follow in his own book. As the story begins he is ruminating about the fate of his friends who were all trapped into marriage. He observes that even though they all appear to be perfectly happy, he isn't about to let anything like that happen to him. No sir, he's going to be on his toes and not fall into any kind of trap. Famous last words.
As his coach travels along, his eyes are drawn to woman standing along the side of the
road. She is dressed in a fuchsia colored cloak and on her head is a plumed pink bonnet. He instantly jumps to the conclusion that she is a "bird of paradise". For all of you who have never read a Regency novel and are not familiar with that particular cant, a "bird of paradise" is a woman of easy virtue. Now, whether that term is real slang from Regency times, or a term invented by the great Georgette Heyer, is something which can be debated at a later date. But for now, Alistair thinks she's a bird of paradise and he's eager to enjoy her "favors." Well, the supposed bird is our heroine Stephanie Gray and she has run into a bit of trouble.
Stephanie has inherited a fortune -- sort of. She needs to claim that fortune and in order to do that, she quit her governess job (which she hated), packed her valise of all her worldly goods, put most of her money in that valise, climbed on board a public coach, and headed toward her fortune. Well, on the way she ran into some less than honest folk and everything in her valise was stolen. So, she decided to walk -- what else could she do? Along the way, she ran into some "show-folk" who lent her some stage clothes -- hence the outlandish ensemble. She is ever so grateful for the ride from the nice gentleman. Really grateful, for he saved her life. She proceeds to tell him her story.
I found the carriage ride scene quite fascinating. Stephanie is perfectly honest with Alistair, she tells him almost her entire story, all about her inheritance and how she was robbed, etc. But here's what Alistair hears: blah, blah, blah. All the time she is telling him the truth, he is thinking she's making the entire story up. He is bound and determined to not believe her and that is because he wants her to be something other than what she is. They travel together a couple of nights; he even shows up in the bedroom thinking to have his way with her. She, on the other hand, thinks he just lost his way; for a kind, fine, gentleman like him would never think of seducing her.
When they arrive at her soon-to-be inherited estate, she warns him that his presence may be taken the wrong way. She suggests to him that he should just drop her off and she will walk the rest of the way. But Alistair is still stubborn and he wants to see her squirm out of the lies he thinks she's still creating. He wants to see just how far she'll go. He pooh poohs her and walks right into the marriage trap he was trying to avoid. Unlike a lot of Romanceland books, Alistair does not hold Stephanie responsible for the mistake. He knows it's his own stubbornness that has landed him at the altar and he takes it very calmly. It is also at this point that Stephanie finds out that he isn't a Mr. but a duke. Appearances can be deceiving; Stephanie isn't a strumpet and Alistair isn't a Mr. That particular misunderstanding is cleared up. Then the story journeys down another path and here is where some heavy-duty angst takes over.
The next portion revolves around Stephanie being sooooo
grateful to Alistair that she does everything she can to change. She attempts to change into the perfect duchess thanks to some heavy-handed lessons from Alistair's mother. Alistair spends a great deal of time saying the wrong thing to Stephanie which only makes her even more determined to be perfect. When she is eventually the perfect duchess, Alistair realizes that maybe that isn't what he really wants. But how can he change her back to the woman he realizes he fell in love with? This is a story filled with some pretty complex people and it takes Alistair and Stephanie a while to realize that neither one of them has to change to be perfect for each other. I recommend this story.
Kay is an avid reader of historical romance books, maybe with a little trip into paranormal land and an occasional journey into mystery world.