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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Diddington Diamond by Wendy Burdess

The Diddington Diamond by Wendy Burdess
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (172 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Lord Toby Allenby is very fond of women – perhaps a little too fond. His younger brother, Harry, conversely, has no intentions of even contemplating another relationship – ever.

So, when the boys’ Great Aunt Milly bequeaths the magnificent Diddington Hall to whichever of the pair marries first, Toby assumes the inheritance is his for the taking, providing, of course, he can find a suitable bride.

But add to the mix a scheming mistress, a murderous money lender, an ambitious strumpet, and a bookish accident-prone young lady completely terrified of men, and Toby’s finds his quest not quite as simple as he first supposed …

Where is the Diddington Diamond? Is there really a Diddington Diamond? Is it legend or truth? Either way the late Millicent Phoebe Venetia O’Hare of Diddington Hall uses it to influence matchmaking even beyond the grave. Her old solicitor Mr. Gerald Hinds does enjoy getting to be a part of and see the results of his old friends meddling.

Louisa Winchester of Hartley House in Diddlington had accepted her mother, Eliza Winchester’s philosophy that men “steal your heart then toss it aside like a worn boot”. Consequently, men should be avoided at all times. But when their lives get entangled with the Duke and Duchess of Wolsington family who now occupy Diddlington Hall, Louisa and Eliza find their regimented life style flies out the window.

Lord Tobias Allenby, Marquis of Yarm, and Harry, his younger brother, Earl of Stanford, the Duke and Duchess’ sons, expected to inherit Diddlington Hall from their great-aunt Millie. What they didn’t expect was the caveat she attached. Tobias, deep in gambling debts and involved with a strong-willed mistress, has no desire to get married, but he needs to if he is to get himself out of the mess he got himself into. While Harry’s Clare, the love of his life, died and he plans to never fall in love again. The idea of marriage is abhorrent to him. But he loves Diddlington Hall. Great-Aunt Millie does force the issue of growing up and accepting responsible on two idle young men—one seeking personal pleasure regardless of cost and the other wallowing in misery, refusing to live life since his Clare is dead.

The secondary characters that influence so much of the action are truly a mixed lot. Maria Dove, the house guest of Eliza and Louisa, is from Yorkshire and bent on finding a rich, important husband. My goodness, what a stir she causes. Her antics can be outrageous. What a startling climax and denouement to her story! Caroline, Tobias’ mistress, is another that lets her influence be felt with no holds barred. She knows what she wants and woe to anyone who gets in her way. Of course, the seemingly ever-present, helpful Viscount Winston and the late-on-the-scene Elizabeth Wilson play significant roles in their own quiet ways.

The subtle, often tongue-in-cheek, humor that ripples through The Diddington Diamond makes it a delight to read. The self-imposed misery of Lady Eliza Winchester is incredible to the point of laughable at times. Even Tobias’ misery, though deadly serious, is humorous at times as he tries to outwit his creditor and his mistress and still hang on to his inheritance. His plight begins to wear a little before it is resolved, but the quite unintentional connection Harry and Louisa make, as the catalogue books and search for the Diddington diamond, shines with humor, laughter and yes, love, giving the reader that special feeling that all is right with the world. The many happily-ever-after sub-stories don’t come easily but they do come with a satisfied sigh for the reader.

Wendy Burdess puts in some special little tidbits that add a unique touch to the story, like the pink and lilac butterfly, the places that nurture love, and one of the best is a little snippet in the epilogue that tickles the imagination. She writes in a delightful, entertaining style.