This is a newly-published collection of two of Jo Beverley's novels from the early 1990s, The Fortune Hunter and Deirdre and Don Juan. The two stories include some of the same characters and in some ways have a similar theme (that of love being found in unexpected places), although their two heroines are very different, one being stunningly beautiful, the other rather plain. They are short and sweet stories with an enjoyable Regency setting and some good side characters.
The Fortune Hunter
Amy de Lacy and her brothers and sisters face poverty - but it's Amy's face that could rescue them from that. A beautiful woman, Amy rarely lacks for suitors, only she knows that in order to rescue her family from penury she needs to find a rich suitor. She has the face for it, but does she have the stomach for it?
Amy's plans go awry right from the beginning when she bumps into Harry Crisp, a handsome and charming young stranger. Unfortunately, Harry won't really do
- he's not rich enough, and Amy has to reject him. Harry, bruised and angry, can't quite get Amy out of his mind.
When she arrives in London for a season, it's up to both of them to decide whether love is more important than duty.
This is a good story, although Amy isn't always a sympathetic character and
some of her choices seem rather suspect, even when we are given her reasoning behind them. The setting is interesting, including details of a
season in London and of the Melton hunting world, but somehow the story lacks a little of the depth more apparent in Beverley's later novels.
Deirdre and Don Juan
"Don Juan" is the rakish Earl of Everdon, a man whose wife left him ten
years before. Since then, Everdon has been known for his liaisons with ladies, safe in the knowledge that matchmaking mamas will give him a wide berth for their daughters as he's already married. When he discovers that his wife has died, he is concerned that he will be hunted for his marriage prospects so decides to take another wife as soon as possible - one who will be quiet and no trouble and who no other man will try to steal.
Everdon chooses his mother's young friend, Lady Deirdre Stowe. Deirdre, however, is unwilling to be his bride: she is already privately betrothed to a local mathematician, Howard.
Thus begins Everdon's plan to draw Deirdre away from Howard and make her to decide to marry him - although he has no idea the effect it will have on his own feelings towards her.
This is another good read, although Deirdre's behavior throughout is a bit annoying. It's clear to the reader - and everyone in the story - that Howard isn't suitable for Deirdre and that Everdon is a far better choice, yet she hangs on to her feelings for Howard. Howard himself
is a rather unbelievable character, his constant preoccupation with math seeming
more cartoonish than real. I'm not entirely sure why Everdon fell so hard for Deirdre, but it's good to read of a sort-of ugly duckling winning the prize in this story.