Book review: Masquerade by Joanna Taylor
There are no prizes for guessing which film inspired a fun and frothy, rags-to-riches Regency romance which is guaranteed to make hearts flutter and set pulses racing this summer.
The clue is in the plot… young country girl turned courtesan meets handsome, rich aristocrat in need of a ‘companion’ to accompany him to society dances and balls. It’s purely a business arrangement, of course, but even the best-laid plans can go awry.
Enter the captivating fictional world of Sussex-based Joanna Taylor, a national newspaper journalist and author who is ploughing a new and fertile furrow as a historical romance novelist.
Masquerade, inspired by her love for hit film Pretty Woman, is her first outing into this popular genre and on the basis of its sheer exuberance and entertainment value, this funny, wistful and colourful story looks set to be a winning start.
In 1786, London is no place for faint hearts. Country girl Lizzy Ward never meant to end up working as a prostitute on the streets of Piccadilly when she ran away from her home in Bristol.
Lizzy is finding her pretty face her greatest asset in the ‘strange midnight world’ she now inhabits. But she still dreams of a life free from heartache and horrors, debt collectors and false suitors, a life where she is well fed, in fine clothes and has a man to treat her kindly.
So when a young aristocrat takes more than just a professional interest in her, it seems her luck is changing. But although tall, good-looking Lord Edward Hays offers to make Lizzy richer than she could ever have imagined, his price is unexpected.
She must masquerade in the sumptuous gowns and social mask of a true lady in the grand houses and ballrooms of London to help him seal important business deals free from the predatory eyes of matchmaking matriarchs.
With the stakes so high and scandal only a breath away, love is out of the question. But as Lizzy navigates the fashion and faux-pas of the London elite, she finds her tough façade failing her.
Lord Hays wants to show her that nobility can be more than skin deep and, as the connection between them grows, it’s no longer certain who is wearing the mask. Because everyone is hiding something… and someone is hiding everything.
Taylor’s enchanting Regency romp has a charismatic couple at its fast-beating heart… handsome, humane aristo Edward and the irresistible, feisty, tough-talking Lizzy, a rough diamond with a sparkling centre and a pleasing probity.
Despite the course of true love rarely running smoothly, their simmering passions shine brightly in a gorgeous, fast-paced story brimming with colour, vibrancy and moments of high drama and dark humour.
An exciting new voice in the world of historical romance…
(Piatkus, paperback, £7.99)