What lies behind the rumours concerning the mysterious Medmenham Abbey on the Thames? And what connection has the notorious rake, Charles Barsett, with that centre of ill-repute? Amanda Twyford, confronted unexpectedly with the unwelcome news of her elder sister Isabella’s engagement to Charles Barsett, determines to find the answers to these questions; and when Mandy’s mind is set on a course of action, little can stop her.
She enlists the aid of her childhood friend, John Webster, who is in love with Isabella; and also of Roger Thurlston, cousin to Charles Barsett, but altogether different in character from his kinsman. With these two allies, the volatile, impetuous Mandy embarks on a series of adventures that are at once breath-taking and amusing.
How she finally learns all she wishes to know and, in so doing, uncovers the secrets of her own heart, is the subject of this novel set in the mid-eighteenth century, when Sir Francis Dashwood established his notorious Hellfire Club – scene of scandalous, illicit deeds and with the motto of Fay ce que voudras or ‘do what you will’.
“I was surprised at how much I liked this story. I couldn't resist reading about a rake that was developed in the mind of an author in 1960 - that would be 45 years ago. Although we don't get any nitty gritty details of his level of debauchery, he was a member of the original "Hellfire" club which was in its heyday during the middle 1700's with its purported leader being Sir Francis Dashwood.
The rake is Charles Barseet who is being pressured by his father to marry the daughter of one of his friends - Isabella Twyford, a beautiful country girl who's recently come to London for her first season. Trouble is on its way to London, however, in the person of Isabella's younger sister, Amanda, who is a somewhat daring hoydenish girl who believes she knows what's best for Isabella and sets about righting wrongs.
When she learns Isabella is being pressured to marry Charles, Amanda decides to take the situation in hand motivated by her knowledge that Isabella loves her childhood sweetheart, John Webster, and her belief that Charles Barseet is not a good man. There's more here than meets the eye, however, and very soon Amanda is embroiled in a situation that she's not really capable of handling.
In truth, I found the character of Charles to be too much of a mixture of a good guy/bad guy. If he was/is involved in the Hellfire Club, we're talking about an entirely different level of debauchery than the usual young rake. However, there are times, we get a glimpse of the sensitive young man we suspect he was like during his younger years.
Nevertheless, the story held my interest even though I had to suspend some of my beliefs about how deep Charles was into that life in order to give him a fair chance to get his girl. I am glad to have been introduced to this author's books. This one had some really great characters, but my favorite part of the story is the fact that Charles truly seemed to be sincerely regretful about his debauched past to the point I was "almost" willing to forgive and forget. Almost...”