Desert Isle Keeper Review

Love in Disguise
(This DIK review was written by a reader)

Edith Layton
1994 reissue of 1987 release, Regency Romance
Signet, $4.50, Amazon ASIN 0451149238
Part of a series

Grade: A
Sensuality: Subtle

Love in Disguise is one of Edith Layton's finest books. Not only romantic and entertaining, this Super Regency is sheer delight for readers who love lush and playful prose.

Miss Susannah Logan is the daughter of a fishmonger whose business acumen made him a fortune. Doted on from birth by a widowed father and two older brothers, Susannah, now 21, can't seem to find her proper place in the world. Men of her own class consider Susannah too far above them, while gentlemen scorn her low birth even as they covet the ample dowry that marriage to her would bring.

Having finally coaxed Susannah to partake of a London season under the patronage of a distant relation, Susannah's brother is dismayed when they arrive to find that relative is recently deceased. So he contrives another arrangement that involves his friend and occasional investment partner, Warwick Jones: Susannah and her chaperone will stay as guests in Warwick's townhouse till Charlie can return from his expectant wife's bedside in the country and make more permanent arrangements.

Charlie had often considered introducing Warwick to his sister, believing they would suit each other well. But Warwick, a self-described "odd, cold sort of fellow", has a different matchmaking scheme in mind. His good friend, Julian, Viscount Hazelton, who is hopelessly besotted with an unattainable lady, is recuperating at Warwick's home after being attacked by ruffians - who acted at the behest of that lady's brother. But the best laid schemes, as they say, go awry. Warwick quickly realizes when he first sets eyes on Susannah: "And then, for the first time in his life, between the drawing in of one breath and the letting out of another, he lost a breath somewhere in between, forever...For she looked exactly as he'd always imagined love itself would look if he ever found it." It's the perfect love triangle, with Julian seeing no one except his lady love, Susannah mooning over Julian's golden good looks, and Warwick silently yearning for Susannah.

Susannah is a delightful heroine, agreeing to her brother's plan only because she'd caught a glimpse of Julian at the coaching inn where they stopped en route to London, and isn't yet able to relinquish her own dreams of finding love with a worthy man. Though not blind to her own assets, she is pragmatic, as when she considers the current fashion for "little champagne-cup breasts of the sort...that Marie Antoinette....had". With typical irreverence, Susannah assesses her own attributes by comparison: "A person...would get so tipsy he'd have to be carried from the table if he drank from but two glasses modeled after them."

Julian, though sometimes thoughtless, is a charmer who is earnestly trying to reverse the impoverished circumstances he inherited along with his title, so that he can reclaim his place in society and secure his lady's hand. He's accustomed to being underestimated by people who can't see beyond his good looks; only Warwick ever credited Julian with both sense and sensibility, and it's their mutual acceptance that sustains the friendship that began when they were school boys.

Warwick is somewhat reclusive and idiosyncratic, but he's also well-regarded, wise beyond his years and infinitely loyal. Though totally self-contained, Warwick does "feel things, if not precisely often." As he confides to Julian, "...I sometimes think it would....be more than any man could ask of life - to simply love someone more than himself. Especially if he were able every now and again to let himself believe such love might be reciprocated. Oh yes, I sometimes think these things, you know."

Love in Disguise won't satisfy the reader in search of a quick midnight snack. It's a book to linger over and savor, with characters who take on shape and substance through their interactions and inner musings. A romantic and vastly interesting read, it's perfect in every way.

Donna Newman reviewed at AAR in 2003 and 2004.

-- Donna Newman

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