Miss Billings Treads the Boards by Carla Kelly


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Playing a Perilous Part

Miss Katherine Billings was cast in a most unlikely role for a vicar’s daughter. But beautiful Kate was an impoverished orphan—and her only escape from a lecherous employer’s embraces was to go upon the stage.

It was dangerous enough that a charming French playwright wanted her as his leading lady, and an ambitious impresario demanded that she bare her charms to an eager audience.

But when a magnificent marquess, Lord Henry Grayson, proposed that she join him in a masquerade of mating in a mock marriage, Kate found that putting on an act in public could be even more perilous in private…if the act was an act of love….

Publisher and Release Date: Camel Press December 2013 (originally published by Signet, 1993)

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat Rating: 1

Review by Lizzie English

Henry Tewksbury-Hampton, Fifth Marquess of Grayson (Hal) is turning into a dull dog, no longer attractive, with thinning hair, a thickening waist and no desire to leave the house. He returned years earlier from the Napoleonic Wars and settled down into this easy way of life. His solicitor advises him to wed and beget children so he has a reason to pull himself together and get back to being the man that he once was. Hal laughs all this off and decides to go into the country, but on the journey, he is accosted, injured and left bleeding after his bumbling attackers all but run away.

Kate Billings lived a traveling life with her father – a Pastor – who was more interested in art than the Bible. After his death she is penniless and has to take up a job as a governess in the town of  Wakefield. As a result of all of her worries and mindless wandering she ends up in the town of Wickfield, and instead of being met by the servant her employer was sending, was picked up instead by an actor who thinks she is the actress he is supposed to meet.

The novel is a romantic comedy; there’s a lot of slapstick and not really much detail around the plays that the characters are performing in. There’s hitting with candlesticks, fainting and overreactions. Given the number of times Hal gets hit you’d think he’d be out for more than a few minutes and possibly suffering a concussion, but it’s amusing to see this in a romantic setting. Hal can be pushy which may be a little off-putting and it sometimes makes the reader wonder exactly what Kate sees in him! But given her upbringing and life with an unreliable man who could never stay in one place and who ultimately left her with nothing, it’s easy to see why she would be attracted to a man like Hal who is the complete opposite. The romance between Kate and Hal is an interesting one – their entire relationship actually starts on a lie and it continues that way, which, fortunately, is more humorous than not, because of the theatrical setting.  After all, it can be only in a setting like this that something as big as deception turns into something funny.

I had a major problem with the fact that the story revolved around actors and theatricals. I loved the idea of the traveling troupe, which is something that you rarely see in romantic novels; and to have this be the main focus was such a lovely idea. But it seemed too unlikely, and the major conflict of the story (which I won’t reveal) shows the entire troupe to be almost unbelievably naive. Also – I don’t know many actors who go around just randomly sprouting quotes as sayings because they happen to fit the situation.

Even though Hal is not a typical romantic hero, he is nonetheless a hero to Kate. He makes her see what she has in her, that she is able to stand up for herself and do what she wants. Hal and Kate are perfect for each other; they are different but still want the same things. And even though their plans didn’t include acting they take it by the reins which brings them closer together.

Lizzie English

I have a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of South Carolina, but have not found anything to do with it yet. I'm a full time worker at a retail store. My only escape from the crazy schedule is being able to read all that I want now. I stick mostly to Historical Fiction, especially in the time of the Tudor's and King Henry VIII. I'm broadening my horizons and going into more historical time periods. I also enjoy writing and watching wrestling when I have the time.

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