While I love weeping over a good Carla Kelly (Looking at you, Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind), I am learning that she also has a scathingly smart sense of humour which is put to amazing use here.... Much as Mr. Butterworth in Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind encourages Jane to finally find her voice, so Henry/ Hal wants to ensure that his lady love finds herself before she finds love.
But when, to allay that niggling suspicion, Henry ends up asking Algernon if he likes his uncle, things began going downhill. Obviously, Algie was brutally honest; the sole reason for his liking is because Henry pays his quarterly allowances in time. Then, after a few hours with his solicitor and making new arrangements, he decides hes going to go away from London for a few days. While Henry was being plagued by his dumb relatives and servants, the beautiful daughter of an eccentric village vicar, who loved studying Italian paintings, Katherine Billings was on her way to her own destiny, blank and unreadable as it was. She didnt like it at all but Katherine knew its her lot now and she should better get used to with it. Though Gerald offers to drive her to her destination, Katherine decides she doesnt want to. The theater is performing one of the Bards plays, and theyre now missing an actress, whom Gerald went to pick up and mixed up with Katherine. But she loved Shakespeare and so it happens that the big and loud theater manager gives Katherine the role for the day. And his first eyeful was Katherines bountiful bosomdespite her extreme embarrassment, she dressed like a lascivious woman because her part called for itwhich Henry appreciated more than anything else in the world. Henry was in love for the first time in his life, though no idea if it was Katherines beauty or her bosom. The people there knew he was a peer or the realm but he gave them the notion that his greedy nephew is trying to kill him for money and the whole troupe came to his rescue, eagerly hiding his identity from the outside world, even a runner who comes in search of him later. Henry was also enjoying Katherines undivided attention for she felt very responsible because, after finding him there she was so scared silly she had, uh, bonked him on the head with something that rendered him unconscious for the second time. With everything going good, Henry decides to stay with them for a time and see what fun they offer to his miserably lonely life. However, though his journey with the traveling theater started out as a joke of sort, Henry soon finds that life with these so-called lowly actors AKA common people is a life he enjoys very much. For a moment, he was about to tell Katherine he knew her cause they share the same solicitor and hes got good news about that painting she thinks is junk, but he doesnt find the time to tell her until later. But things change for her when the owner of the traveling troupe, Malcolm Bladesworth loses a lot of money on a property hes been eying for a while. Lonely Katherine has come to think of the Bladesworths as her family because theyd been so kind to her, giving her a home and a job. Katherine and the Bladesworths, even Henry, work hard to make the theater a success with a play written by Gerald. But cant say the same for Henry and Katherines relationship, which wasnt going that well. Despite their intimacy, showy for Wills convenience or real, Katherine was ever in doubt of Henrys feelings towards her, her new station in life as a theater owner, not to mention, her family (the Bladesworths). Though his feelings for her grew later, and he did help out around the theater, Henry was not my ideal hero material in any way. I liked Katherine quite a bit for she does work really, really hard to make the theater a success.
Miss Billings Treads the Boards is purely the former. Lord Grayson runs from a bumbling valet and a selfish, lunatic nephew, and ends up hiding out with the actors and lovely Miss Kate. Thus the plot unfolds One of my favorite things was how Lord Grayson teaches Kate to gain confidence and strength, enough for her to become a determined leader.
Henry Tewskbury-Hampton, Fifth Marquis of Grayson, runs into some excitement when he is attacked en route to a party and finds refuge with Bladesworth's Company of Actors. Henry becomes Hal, a working actor and husband to Katherine, now Kate, as a rouse to continue hiding.
I ran across this book in a used bookstore about 20 years ago and had to buy it since the title made me laugh out loud.
On his way to deliver this message to Miss Billings in Wakefield, he is set upon by a very inept highwayman - who accidentally shoots him. He finds the Bladesworth's Traveling Company, and realizes that he has inadvertently found Miss Kate Billings. And so he uses the name Hal Hampton and he and Kate both stay with the Bladeworth's Traveling Company. I loved both Hal - the rich, lazy marquess who has finally found a reason (Kate) to go out of his way and sacrifice a little - and Kate who is kind and generous and willing to take some risks especially if it will help someone else.
I read somewhere that Ms. Kelly only writes stories that she wants to read. He needs to correct the matter of the sketch by Giotto; he found out that it has value after all and asks for Lord Grayson to assist him. He wants the nobleman to locate Miss Billings and help her sell the print if she so chooses. Kate is convinced to help the family of actors for one night. By the end of evening, Kate and Lord Grayson's lives will become entwined. Lord Grayson, 'Hal', has his work cut out.
Although Carla Kelly is well known among her readers as a writer of Regency romance, her main interest (and first writing success) is Western American fictionmore specifically, writing about America's Indian Wars. Although she had sold some of her work before, it was not until Carla began work in the National Park Service as a ranger/historian at Fort Laramie National Historic Site did she get serious about her writing career. (Or as she would be the first to admit, as serious as it gets.) Carla wrote a series of what she now refers to as the "Fort Laramie stories," which are tales of the men, women and children of the Indian Wars era in Western history. Her most recent gig with the National Park Service was at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site on the Montana/North Dakota border. Her mantra for writing comes from the subject of her thesis, Robert Utley, that dean of Indian Wars history. Her three favorite fictional works have remained constant through the years, although their rankings tend to shift: War and Peace, The Lawrenceville Stories, and A Town Like Alice.