Lord Vanity is a sweeping historical romance spanning two continents in the age of enlightenment. For some readers, the period details, such as the marvelous description of the battle for Montreal, may compensate for the novel’s flaws. Unfortunately, for most readers, the lead characters are not strong enough to stand out against the background of Samuel Shellabarger’s scholarship.
A handsome bastard, Richard Morandi, is toggling together a living in Venice as an actor-musician. He falls for a charming ballerina. Maritza’s pedigree is as socially unacceptable as Richard’s.
Richard falls under the influence of one rogue after another until the details of his background become public knowledge. Then he goes off to Montreal to serve under Wolfe.
Thanks to Richard, the British beat the French in North America. His past obscured by the victory, Richard becomes a spy for the British in Paris. There he meets Maritza again.
Lord Vanity is a romance, so a happy ending is contrived for the couple.
Richard’s lack of perception and his absurd pretension of morality render him joke even as the juvenile lead in this farcical plot. Maritza is almost equally implausible with her emotional acuity and moral purity.
History buffs won’t care; they’ll love this novel for its details.Lord Vanity by Samuel Shellabarger Little, Brown, 1953 473 pages 1953 bestseller #9 My grade B-