On rainy, freezing cold, gray days I like to dust off the pile of old favorites tucked away under my bed and sort through the many bent and ill-used paperbacks until I find one that is guaranteed to make me smile. Actually, they all do, but when the day is bad enough, it takes the best of the best to warm me all over, and without fail, I will find myself considering The Reluctant Cavalier. Itís easy to see why itís a favorite from the first line onóromance and swashbuckling, dastardly villain and all, but why it endures is no doubt due to the combination of innocence and passion that keeps it from being too silly. It features both the dashing and the practical elements of courtship, and makes the one just as exciting as the other.
Miss Annabella Smith knows it is time for her to settle down and do what is proper. She has always been a dutiful daughter to her loving parents and knows that they would like her to accept the offer of the very suitable Duke of Stratton. The problem is that Annabella longs for some adventure, for a dashing, noble hero to carry her most improperly across his saddlebow and none seem to be around. There is only the all too proper Duke, a libertine named Sir Quentin, and the retiring Parsifal Wentworth, who can barely even speak to her.
Poor Parsifal is the odd one out in his notoriously wild family, mocked by his brother and his sister for his shyness. He does not care for Town or fashion, and instead spends all of his time in his garden growing roses and pining for Annabella, so shy around women in fact that he remains pure ofÖheart. He knows that as a boring younger son with no prospects he has no chance to win Annabellaís affections and is prepared to watch her marry the Duke until the interference of a long dead Wentworth ancestor and a deathbed vow.
Suddenly there is a mysterious Cavalier wooing Annabella, Annabella is in mortal danger from an unknown source, and Parsifal has actually managed to befriend his maiden without making too big of a fool of himself. It only remains for Parsifal to prove to Annabella that dashing is all well and good, but thereís a lot to be said for friendship and trust as well. It is all so unbearably cute and sweet that Iím smiling just thinking about it now.