Review of THE RIDDLE OF THE DEPLORABLE DANDY by Patricia Veryan
St. Martin's Press, December 2002
When her brother is taken captive by the French, Elspeth Clayton knows she must rescue him--even if she must risk being 'ruined' to society and take up with Gervaise Valerian, a dandy who may even be involved in treason against the Hanover King of England. Pursued by British agents, French soldiers, and an assortment of cut-throats and assassins, Elspeth and Valerian set off across France on a rescue mission--for Elspeth's brother and for Valerian's 'aunt.'
Author Patricia Veryan keeps the action moving, with adventure and swordfighting on almost every page. She also does a fine job developing the growing awareness and attraction between the two characters allowing Elspeth's initial unfavorable reaction to gradually transform itself as Valerian reveals his true qualities.
Fans of historical fiction are likely to be jarred, however, by the numerous anachronisms that Veryan introduces into her story. The frequent references to the 'Guillotine' make no sense in a novel set in 1749, decades before Dr. Guillotine earned his fame at the start of the French Revolution. Elspeth's maid's reference to 'germs' seems prescient given that Louis Pasteur was in his 20s at the time and had not yet made his famous discoveries--prescient or simply a mistake. The finding of coffee, then a luxury beverage, in the cheapest taverns and Valerian's references to himself as a 'Milquetoast' after a figure of the early 20th century also work to pull the reader out of the history. Indeed, after finding these, I started looking for more--and found that I was paying more attention to historical errors than to the plot.
Despite its research defects, THE RIDDLE OF THE DEPLORABLE DANDY is an enjoyable adventure with engaging characters and romance.
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