Lady Varney’s Risqué Business: A Regency Romp by Cerise DeLand
Amazon Digital Services, 2014
I’ve frequently hosted Cerise DeLand as my guest at Beyond Romance, and always enjoyed her excerpts, but I’d never read any of her books. When she mentioned that one of her Regencies was on sale for just 99 cents a few months ago, I decided to remedy this omission.
The recently widowed Lady Kitty Varney has an impeccable reputation. She’s welcome in salons, drawing rooms and ballrooms throughout the realm and has access to the upper echelons of society. Given her fashionable attire and aristocratic demeanor, no one would dream she’s close to penniless. In truth, her selfish and shiftless husband bequeathed her nothing but his gambling debts. To extricate herself from these financial difficulties, she undertakes the highly delicate occupation of matchmaker and marriage consultant for her peers.
Viscount Justin Belmont is the last individual she expects to find requesting her services. Years before, when he was merely the bastard of an English lord, he’d rescued Kitty from pirates and delivered her, intact, to her family, but they’d refused to allow her to wed the American ship captain. Now Justin’s fortunes have changed. Adopted as his noble uncle’s heir, he has moved to England and, under pressure from his guardian, is seeking a wife. When Justin lays out his criteria for an acceptable bride, Kitty realizes that she’s almost a perfect match—with one fatal exception. Justin’s uncle requires that his ward wed a wealthy woman. Despite appearances, Lady Varney can never provide the expected dowry. Kitty must come to terms with the fact that the man she loves will necessarily marry someone else.
Overall I enjoyed this brief, lively novella. I appreciated Kitty’s cleverness, her courage and ingenuity in the face of adversity. It’s a pleasant change to have a heroine who’s mature, self-confident and knowledgeable, as opposed to a clueless virgin. The snappy dialogue entertained and the lengthy sex scene, in which Kitty “auditions” for the role for Justin’s wife, is deliciously sensual if historically somewhat dubious.
However, I had the same problem with Lady Varney’s Risqué Business as I do with most of the romance I read. The story is totally predictable. There’s no suspense at all. The conflicts feel fake. Every reader knows that the obstacles to Justin’s and Kitty’s relationship won’t remain a serious barrier for long. When Justin apparently takes Kitty’s refusal to heart and courts another woman, it’s obvious he’s bluffing. Kitty and Justine are destined for their happily ever after from page one.
For many romance readers, this is a plus, not a negative. They like being reassured that the characters will finally be together. And I guess they don’t really care too much about the plausibility of the plot as the author moves her creations around on the fictional stage. The HEA is the payoff.
I prefer a book where the author keeps me guessing, up to the very end, whether the relationship in question will actually manage to survive. In fact, I don’t require a happy ending at all, but if the author does manage pull one out of her hat, I want to be surprised and delighted. I don’t want to take it for granted.
That’s just me. Millions of romance readers feel differently. That’s lucky for Cerise and all the other authors of “classic” romance whom I host, and rather unfortunate for me!