Joan Smith,
(Fawcett Crest, 1977)

Escapade is a story that would have been titled "Morals & Mores" if Jane Austen had written it. Puella, nickname Ella, alias Miss Prattle, is a highly unconventional girl. Uninterested in the Almack's of high society, an aspiring novelist and unwilling to flirt, Ella's behavior among her social circle is anything but the norm. In fact, the only thing convincing her to take note of the haut-ton is her writing job.

On the opposite end of society, the Duke of Clare finds himself at the peak of fashionable affairs. Nothing unusual ever happens, no matter what folly he tries. Not even when the notorious gossip columnist starts taking him to task for his foolishness does the Duke of Clare consider change possible. After all, the richest eligible bachelor in London may do as he likes, no matter what the printed "Miss Prattle Says."

Author Joan Smith needs no more than a house party to turn everything around. The Duke's unsurprising life gets some spontaneity. Ella becomes witty in person as well as in the papers. But no escapade is truly safe, particularly with Miss Prattle reporting everything to all of London. Can the Duke and Ella weather everything that lies between them? More importantly, can their reputations weather the outcome? It's anyone's guess. The only safe bet in Smith's book is the Duke of Clare's mother and her appreciation of Ella: who could possibly not like the person who introduced you to Jane Austen?

This book is wonderfully written. The relationships are organic; the problems keep you in suspense without getting overdone. It's so similar to the style of Georgette Heyer that I misremembered it as hers for awhile. Smith's writing edge may lie more in situations and thoughts than in conversation, but the same sharp wit is evident. Escapade is a quick, absorbing read with a delicious combination of the tart and the sweet.

book review by
Whitney Mallenby

28 April 2012

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