Miranda has known the Herscham family all her life; thus, she knows better than to set her cap for Lord Rotham, the oldest son, who has proven to be a ramshackle young man of the worst sort--not to mention the one who had played fast and loose with her older sister's affections all those years ago. Miranda has been sent to stay with the Herschams, ostensibly because of her younger sister's bout with the measles, but Miranda knows her parents are hoping she will make a match of it with Pavel, the younger Herscham son. It seems hopeless, though, since Pavel is only eighteen--the same as Miranda--and they've always been more like siblings.
Lord Rotham unexpectedly returns from his post at the Vienna Congress, and although he has a serious problem on his hands, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Miranda, who proves to be immune from his practiced charm. It gives him pause to realize how his antics of the past have tainted him in Miranda's eyes, and this latest escapade of his--having stolen a valuable French tapestry from a cathedral on a lark--is not showing his character in any good light either. Still, there's no keeping secrets in that household, especially after the tapestry is stolen and the servant left guarding it seriously wounded. Since this matter is likely to cause an international incident, somehow they have got to figure out who stole it and get it back again.
Rotham knows what he wants almost from the first, and even his affectionate parents see it before Miranda does. But how can she take this rogue seriously when he was the cause of her sister Trudie's anguish in the past? No doubt he had cut quite a swathe through the great ladies at the Vienna Congress before returning home. And hadn't she seen the looks he'd exchanged with the beautiful comtesse who was also lodging with the Hershams? No, Miranda is far too sensible to have her head turned by a gentleman with HIS track record.
And yet. . . is Miranda truly so cautious and staid herself? Perhaps the truth is that she's been waiting for an opportunity to have an adventure herself. . . and who better but an experienced rogue--one who is feeling seriously remorseful of his misspent youth--to accompany her?
I love the characters, the close family relationships, the witty repartee, especially Pavel's remark about the lump on Rotham's forehead giving him the look of a unicorn, a reference to the famous tapestry of "The Virgin and the Unicorn". (No need to worry; it was a minor injury that soon faded.) The implication being, of course, that Miranda was the virgin who had tamed the unicorn without really trying to; he had voluntarily laid his head in her lap in a gesture of eternal surrender.
Joan Smith is a talented author; it is to be hoped that her books will be released in ebook format for the enjoyment of newer readers, who do not often get the chance to read such delightful Regencies these days.