Onyx, $5.99, ISBN 0-451-15042-2
Historical Romance, 1999 (Reissue)
The Diabolical Baron is Mary Jo Putney’s first ever book and since it is reissued without any rewriting done, it’s actually a traditional Regency story marketed as a mainstream historical romance. None of that sexy stuff, in other words. Still, I’m rather impressed by this effort, even if the story itself is on the forgettable side.
The baron in question is one Jason Kincaid, Baron Radford, who is considered the most splendid of the Season. Out of obligation, he decides to get married and has his friend list twenty or so names of plain, malleable woman on pieces of paper, toss them into a hat and the lucky winner picked at random would be his wife. The winner in question is shy, mousy Caroline Hanscombe who is terrified of Jason. She is coerced into marriage by her parents, however, using a silly threat that demonstrates what a martyr Caroline is. These two mismatched people and their family and hanger-ons visit the country where in comes Captain Richard Davenport, long-lost heir to the Davenport estates. Caroline and Richard find themselves attracted to each other, Caroline’s aunt Jessica and Jason find themselves ex-lovers now rekindling their flame… oh dear.
This is a romance novel. so of course Caroline and Richard will get their happy ending. So no worry there. The fun is watching the attraction grow. Miss Putney is a gifted writer so I find myself totally absorbed in the story, smiling here, chuckling there, and generally enjoying myself.
Only when I reflect on this wonderful book do I realize Caroline is a depressingly passive heroine. She never does anything. She is just there. As for Richard, he is a depressingly perfect hero. Consequently, there is a blandness to this story that is hard to overlook despite the author’s way with words.
Not exactly on par with the author’s later better books, but nonetheless for a first book, this is pretty good.