This well written and reasonably enjoyable regency romance is the first in a series of eight books by six different authors which share common characters and a common background, and which follows on from a terrible scandal which had taken place two decades before ...
Once apon a time three young men of noble birth had been friends and colleagues, working for a government department. But then one of them had been murdered, and a second accused of the crime - and not just hanged for it, but attainted, so that his wife and young children lost everything.
Twenty years later the scandal resurfaces, dragging in the surviving member of the original trio and the children of all three of them. But it is far from obvious who is who ...
At the start of this book, on 5th January 1814, a young woman who calls herself Nell Latham is working as a milliner and struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes she is called on to deliver hats and other items of clothing to wealthy clients, and it does not seem particularly unusual or sinister when one of her customers asks her to deliver a parcel to a peer she has never heard of, the Earl of Narborough.
At least, it did not appear suspicious until the Earl collapses in shock when he sees the contents of the parcel, and Nell finds herself suspected by the Earl's handsome son Marcus, Lord Stanegate, of being part of a conspiracy to harm his father.
This prompts her to open a sealed package of correspondence which her dead mother had left her but she had previously found the thought of reading too painful. Having read it, Nell realises that whoever used her as a pawn to deliver the parcel must have known things about her birth which she had long forgotten or never known. Unless her selection to deliver the parcel was a miraculous coincidence, she must either have been part of the message, or as much a target as Lord Narborough was.
Nell finds Marcus's arrogance infuriating but she also finds him strangely attractive. But someone appears to be out to harm both her and Marcus's family, and they are both in danger. And if she tells Marcus who she really is, is there any hope that he will trust her, or believe her protestations of innocence?
I didn't find the story tremendously plausible - although I have read far worse - and there was none of the wealth of period detail about the world of the haut ton which the best regency writers such as Georgette Heyer or Marion Chesney (also known as M.C. Beaton) build into their books. This is somewhere between a good three star book and the bottom end of four stars.
After some consideration it just scrapes the fourth star because there were flashes of considerable entertainment value in the interplay between the characters and I was able to suspend disbelief while reading it. If you like light regency romances with a touch of the cloak and dagger about them, you will probably enjoy this.
The "Regency Silk and Scandals" series consists of:
1) This book, "The Lord and the Wayward Lady" by Louise Allen
2) "Paying the Virgin's Price (Mills & Boon Regency Silk & Scandals)
" by Christine Merrill
3) "The Smuggler and the Society Bride (Mills & Boon - Regency Silk & Scandals)
" by Julia Justiss
4) "Claiming The Forbidden Bride (MB Continuities)
" by Gayle Wilson
5) "The Viscount and the Virgin (Mira (Direct))
" by Annie Burrows
6) "Unlacing the Innocent Miss (Mills & Boon Regency Silk & Scandals) (MB Continuities)
" by Margaret McPhee
7) "The Officer and the Proper Lady (Regency Silk & Scandal) (MB Continuities)
" by Louise Allen
8) "Taken by the Wicked Rake (Mills & Boon - Regency Silk & Scandals) (MB Continuities)
" by Christine Merrill.