by Victoria Alexander

December 2003
ISBN: 0-060-51761-1
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Lady Philadelphia Effington has always been the “sensible” twin, calmly smoothing out the turmoil caused by her effervescent sister Cassandra. When her good sense is swept away by the attentions of a charming rake, Charles Wilmont, Delia finds herself wed and then widowed within a week. Having spent six months in the Lake District while the scandal dies down, Delia has returned to London and her husband’s home, hoping to repair her relationship with family and friends.

Viscount Anthony St. Stephens is looking for answers. Why did fellow agent Lord Wilmont marry the Effington chit? All he was supposed to do was ingratiate himself into the family circle to continue his investigation. More importantly, who killed Charles, and had they discovered the evidence he had obtained? St. Stephens decides that the best course is to become a member of the lovely widow’s household and, disguised as an older gentleman, takes his place as her butler, Gordon.

The Lady in Question has several themes. First and foremost, there is the mystery surrounding Wilmont’s death and his investigation of the Effington family. The second theme is a coming of age tale for a pampered society debutante who must take control of her future. At the beginning of the story, Delia and her sister are typically sheltered and unaware of the realities of adult life. Delia’s marriage was unconventional and much too short to have been any sort of help in this regard. She is portrayed as good-natured, lovely, and not necessarily highly intelligent. She does, however, grow throughout the story into the sort of independent woman that I like. She may be afraid of her future, but that does not stop her from striding out to meet it head on. She is also willing to admit that she needs help.

A third theme involves the Effington family relationships, not only between the twins, but of the Effington women en masse. There is a marvelous scene where Delia is summoned to meet with her mother and aunts upon returning to London. It shows a side of society matrons that I imagine to be closer to the truth than most of us realize. The British Empire would have crumbled into dust if women like these did not exist.

St. Stephens, even though the readers know his main purpose, remains a sort of enigma through most of the story. His duty is directly in conflict with his honor at times, and he chafes at the restrictions that is has placed on him. He is completely unprepared for the “real” Delia Effington Wilmont, and I enjoyed watching him squirm. He may be a good spy, but he is also a horrible butler, supervising a staff of other agents who do not have a clue about proper household management.

I enjoyed this book very much. There is a great deal of humor in the dialogue and the plot. Ms. Alexander has done her homework on twins, and has captured a number of scenarios that show this special relationship. If you are looking for a good solid Regency romance filled with action, then The Lady in Question may be your answer.

Reviewed in November 2003 by Paula.

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