Rake’s Ransom and A Loyal Companion are reprints by the esteemed Barbara Metzger, two wonderful Regencies that will please new fans as well as those who may have been reading Regencies - and Barbara Metzger - for many years.
Rake’s Ransom centers on a young woman who doesn't stand a chance at finding a suitable mate; her reputation among the ton is of a tomboy who refuses to curb her wild behavior. Jacelyn Trevaine is her father's precious girl, but while she can do no wrong in his eyes, the rest of the ton sees nothing right about her. In the opener, Jacey is plotting to kidnap Arthur because his uncle had taken her beloved dog, Penelope, as hostage. Unfortunately, Jacey had not seen Arthur in years, and she instead kidnaps Arthur’s roommate and best friend, Lord Clairborne, who is quite easy on the eyes and has Jacey rather astonished at how nicely Arthur has turned out. When she is found with Clairborne in a compromising position, the solution is for a quick betrothal and wedding to save her reputation.
Jacey, however, is not convinced this marriage will take place, and Clairborne agrees that he will stand by her side during her season. If she finds someone else better than he, she can ask Clairborne to bow out and pursue her would-be suitor. However, as the two spend more time together, Jacey deep down wishes that Clairborne shared her feelings for him, thus allowing her to marry him freely. She believes that no one should marry for money or for title, as most of the women her age are doing. Unless Clairborne professes his love for her, she cannot marry him.
The storyline of A Loyal Companion is somewhat similar to Rake’s Ransom. There is the young lady who is known to be somewhat of a tomboy (Sonia Randolph) and a dog that causes a lot of problems. This particular dog, however, is one of the narrators of the story, and it makes for good comedy relief. The first chapter starts with regular narration, but at the very end, there is a line in bold which the reader will discover are the thoughts of Fitz, Sonia’s bastard dog. He thus begins narrating at the beginning of each chapter, with the regular (human) narrative ending with a comment from the dog. Comments such as "dogs never lie" in response to "let sleeping dogs lie" are a hoot! Fitz is also very educated, as he can quote Shakespeare and some of the Greek classics (he is familiar with The Iliad and The Odyssey).
Sonia is to be presented to society at the age of sixteen and is sent to live with her grandmother, Lady Atterbury, in London (because her father's health is not very good) to learn how to be a lady. While there, Fitz finds himself in some mischief, gets run over by a coach and is found by Major Darius Conover, a man who is now an outcast in society for something he has been accused of doing (ruining the honor of a young woman). He is back from war, crippled and taking care of his brother Milo's three children, who are now orphans. The children take to Fitz and the family adopts him. However, Fitz, being who he is, finds his way back to his mistress Sonia, who is now introduced to the man that could ruin her life by her mere association with him.
Thus begins the romance between Sonia, the near “hoyden”, and Darius Conover, a major in the army who is lonely and considered an outcast by proper society. Sonia ignores all convention and invites him to her coming-out ball, and life is never again the same among the Ton of London.
Both stories were wonderfully fun. Rake’s Ransom is funny and delightful, and I found myself chuckling throughout the book. I loved the crazy situations that Jacey has a way of finding herself in, and I felt so sorry for poor Clairborne, who cannot get Jacey to behave herself. The subplot of Claireborne's uncle Fenton and cousin Percy and their plot to destroy Clairborne is hilarious! Stereotypical bad guys who could have come from a Dickens novel add to the humor. A A Loyal Companion is a highly unusual story because of the narration by the dog Fitz. His observations on humans and London society are a riot. At the same time, the reader will love Sonia's daring to defy her grandmother and the rest of society by being who she is - a young woman who is compassionate to all creatures and does not judge by looks or by what she hears through the grapevine. There are a number of characters who weave in and out of the story, including (as in Rake’s Ransom) a couple of bad people who try to ruin Conover's reputation. They aren't as seedy as the bad characters in Rake’s Ransom, but they come pretty close.
Both books follow a similar plotline but are different enough that they can be enjoyed back to back. Barbara Metzger will always be known as one of the best Regency authors around, and I hope to read more by her.