It Takes Two to Tangle
Set in London in 1815, this Regency romance pairs two outcasts from polite society. Henry Middlebrook has lost the use of his right arm at the Battle of Quatre Bras and returns, no longer the dashing young aristocrat at ease with witty repartee, frivolity, and preoccupation with appearance; Frances Whittier is a war widow, cast off by her father for marrying beneath her, now companion to her widowed cousin Caroline. It is the latter whom Henry’s sister-in-law determines he should wed, and he sets about wooing the vivacious young countess willingly enough. As the first stage of his campaign, he enlists the help of her companion, but increasingly he finds himself drawn to her instead. Frances certainly undervalues her many talents when she tells him that what most soldiers want is “a good meal and a quick tumble,” but she does deliver the latter with unexpected forwardness. Both have secrets, however, and burdens of guilt that must be confronted before they can find happiness together.
Since the point of view shifts between two protagonists who are struggling with a powerful sense of guilt and frustration at the situation in which they are placed, the tone is darker than one might expect; nor are all the elements as well integrated as they might be. The novel does, however, acknowledge the discrimination faced by those who fall out of society’s favor.