What appears to be the start of a series, When a Lady Misbehaves, is the story of a young girl who schemes her way to the top. April Jardine is a maid at the Pleasure Emporium. Educated beyond her current station, April is making the best of a bad situation when she is given an ultimatum – join the young women in the “front” of the house (i.e. brothel) or move on to a new employer. Madame Vivienne Devereux is not trying to be cruel. She simply cannot afford to keep April without any revenue coming in. April would easily pay for her keep during the virgin’s auction, and then have time to settle in as one of the ladies of the house.
April, horrified at either prospect, seizes opportunity when she discovers Madame’s diary. In it she learns that Madame had a child, and the scheming begins. April, dragging her friend Jenny along as an accomplice, begins to contact the men mentioned in the diary to gain support as the secret “child”. Fraud is the name of the game.
Her machinations put her into contact with the ailing Duke of Westbrook, who takes a liking to the young woman and allows her into his home. He has never stopped loving Vivienne, and this allows him to be close to her once again. His son, famed judge Lord Blackheath, is not so easily persuaded. He thinks something strange is going on, and is determined to find out what it is.
This story pushed at several of my buttons. First of all, April is no lady. That is clear from the start, and is only emphasized as she goes about her blackmailing business. I had more sympathy for Jenny, a soiled dove who just wants to support her friend. Riley’s about-face from suspicious son to love-smitten fool was just too much for me. Even though there were plenty of real villains in this book, April was just one step away from jail. This is not a series I will continue.