Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

The Other D&D

Cindy Anstey, fan of alliteration, brings us Duels & Deception, a tale of ladies, law clerks, and licorice. I mean love.

The Other D&D

BOOK REPORT for Duels & Deception by Cindy Anstey

Cover Story: Quatrefoil
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Doing It Up Too Brown
Bonus Factor: Girls In Pants
Relationship Status: Marriage Of Convenience

Cover Story: Quatrefoil

I like the wallpapery quatrefoil pattern in the background, the two silhouettes in the corners, and especially how strong the wind is blowing through those trees in the bottom left—it’s like a tiny little exciting adventure lives inside! I guess that’s what books are, huh…

The Deal:

Lydia Whitfield is only seventeen, but she’s [basically] in charge of her family’s estate. Her father died three years ago, and her daft uncle moved his family in to “help” Lydia run the place (he thinks pineapple is a good crop choice for southwest England) until she comes of age. In the meantime, she’s set on formalizing plans to marry her neighbor, a male, and thus someone who can legitimately stand up to her uncle on matters of pineapple, what happens to her mom and little sister, etc. And the neighbor, Manfred, has gambled away his own money, needs Lydia’s name and fortune, so that’s awesome, right? It doesn’t matter that he’s rude and ugly and only talks about sowing his wild oats, does it? Or that Robert, the young solicitor’s apprentice working to draw up her marriage contract is super sexy, er, an absolute gentleman?

The question of Manfred v. Robert becomes immediately irrelevant when Lydia is suddenly kidnapped and forced to spend a night away from her home unchaperoned. She easily escapes the next morning, unharmed, but now she has her entire future and the family’s reputation to worry about. Unless she can catch the evil schemer before rumors spread…

BFF Charm: Yay

The very first line of the book mentions that Lydia is not skittish, and then the rest of the chapter—nay, the book!—demonstrates how calm she is in a crisis, and how logically she sees the world. Lydia comports herself with all the proper grace expected of a lady in the Regency; her attention to etiquette is impeccable. But she can also be sarcastic and assertive. She’s got an astute knowledge of agriculture. She’s almost never thinking of herself. She seems like she’s both ahead of her time and firmly settled in her time. And thank goodness, because honestly, if she bucked the trends and took risks, she’s not the only one who would pay dearly. This is an era in which a lady’s reputation can be damaged simply from taking an embarrassing fall! So when she’s kidnapped and stuck in a barn overnight, alone, it really is a crisis than can ruin her life. While she gracefully attempts to solve it, she’s also deeply concerned with her friends’ predicaments. Lydia would be a fantastic friend to have.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

As you might expect from a true lady and a true gentleman, there is nothing more than glances throughout most of this story. However, Lydia and Robert are extremely attracted to one another, and for all the best reasons. They’re always commenting to themselves on how reasonable and interesting the other is, how brave and strong of character… and how cute. But take this example of sweetness: Lydia gets embarrassed and her cheeks become flushed, and Robert feels the following mixed feelings:

“It was most becoming, but as it was caused by either anger or embarrassment, he was sorry to see it.”

Aww, Robert!

Talky Talk: Doing It Up Too Brown

Oh Cindy. She has fun. Too much fun, as I soon came to believe. While I’m impressed by the amount of Regency era slang she knows, it frequently distracted and confused me. A glossary at the back would have been a good idea, actually. There were some words and phrases whose meaning I couldn’t even guess at in context.

Ooh, ooh, raise your hand if you’d like to take a quick vocab quiz! I see plenty of hands in the air, so here you go (answers in Bonus Factor):

1.) What does it mean to “toss him a bouncer”?
     a.) give him a quizzical look
     b.) throw him a writing instrument
     c.) lie to him
     d.) punch him in the nose

2.) What’s a “spencer?”
     a.) a jacket
     b.) a riding crop
     c.) a butler
     d.) a brother-in-law

There was just a lot of "drawing of corks" and "dipping too deep." "Riding neck-or-nothing" and being “dicked in the nob” (which sounds extremely unladylike! Just means “crazy”). If you read a lot of Regency stuff, you might actually know most or all of the terms. But for me, there was much Googling.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s half past 6 and I must go feed my pudding-house!*

*My stomach, of course!

Bonus Factor: Girls In Pants

Lydia doesn’t actually wear pants, but metaphorically she does. I think she wears pants on the inside. And what’s even better is that her father is the one who bought them for her! Her imaginary pants, that is. Before he died, he made sure to educate Lydia in matters of the apple orchard and planting in general—education that now bothers her husband-to-be, Manfred. He tells her that when they are married, she’s going to have to change and pretend not to know anything, essentially. She calmly responds that she’ll never be “a mouse sitting in the background.” He makes fun of how, when she was 10, she had climbed a tree in her skirts (gasp!) to replace a birds’ nest that had fallen to the ground. She tells the rest of the dinner table, “Four little chicks were desperate for their mother … There was no need for them to die simply because the Whitfields couldn’t produce a son to climb the tree in propriety.” How right you are, Lydia!

Quiz Answers: 1.) c; 2.) a. And d., if you’re like me and literally have a brother-in-law named Spencer!

Casting Call:

Daisy Ridley as Lydia Whitfield

Ben Whishaw as Robert Newton

Kyle Soller as Manfred Barley

Relationship Status: Marriage Of Convenience

Book, you’re a fine enough companion, and if my future depended on it, I’d join you in holy matrimony (ew, gross!). But I have to admit, you wouldn’t be my first choice, and I think I deserve a love marriage.

FTC Full Disclosure: I was provided a free review copy by MacMillan. I received neither money nor a pen pal from the future in exchange for this review. I really want a pen pal from the future. Duels & Deception is available now.

Lacey Nadeau's photo About the Author: It's taken a decade, but Lacey has finally decided she misses the beaches of Southern California where she grew up. (It took only about a minute for her to miss the Mexican food.) However, she's pretty committed to the fun and sun of Denver, CO, where she plays with spreadsheets by day, and drinks boozy slushies with her husband and puppy by night. The puppy just pretends.