I decided to read this book on the basis of its description as a Batman Regency Romance AU, and was not disappointed! It is the sixth in the Maiden Lane
series of romances, and on the basis of this one I am going to be working through the rest of them though I am not sure they will be able to compare.
This is how we are introduced to one of the protagonists, which is about as Batman as you can get:
Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield, woke as he always did: with the bitter taste of failure on his tongue.
He then gets up, goes down to his
ancient stone cellars and has a workout on the iron rings he's fitted along the ceiling of said cellars, while discussing a potential bride with his faithful
valet Craven. By day he is the Duke of Wakefield, campaigning in parliament to outlaw "the gin trade" because of the terrible effect of gin on poor people. By night he dresses up as the Ghost of St Giles, in a harlequin outfit and facemask and fights crime and the gin trade on the streets of St Giles.
Over the course of the book it becomes clear that he is trying to recover all the pieces of his mother's necklace, stolen when his parents were shot in front of him as a child, when they were on their way home from a trip to the theatre.
The book opens a bit before waking with the bitter taste of failure
, with Artemis Greaves, companion to her rich and spoiled cousin Lady Penelope Chadwicke, going with her into St Giles for a bet. When the inevitable muggers come along, Artemis pulls out a knife to try to fight them off, only for both ladies to be rescued by the Ghost of St Giles, who is impressed by Artemis's preparation, but accidentally leaves a ring in her hand. She keeps this as a clue to the Ghost's identity.
Lady Penelope is of course the woman being considered by the Duke of Wakefield as a possible wife, but Artemis is the one he actually finds attractive. Penelope has other suitors, and it's a show-duel with one of these where
Maximus forgets himself and fights like the Ghost of St Giles, meaning that Artemis recognises him.
Artemis has a twin brother (Apollo, of course) who has been falsely imprisoned for murder. While Artemis is taking barefoot walks with Maximus, Apollo gets badly beaten up by prison guards; when Artemis finds out, she decides to blackmail Maximus into getting her brother out of jail. For some reason not entirely made clear in the plot, he decides to do this by breaking in dressed up as the Ghost and beating up the prison guards, rather than by throwing his weight around as the Duke of Wakefield.
Oh, and Maximus has a mostly-blind sister Phoebe who he keeps firmly coddled in cotton-wool, and with whom both Artemis and Penelope become friends, and stand up together against Maximus's autocratic insistence he knows best how to take care of them. (hello again Batman)
This was a lot of fun, very silly in places, and definitely one of my favourite Batman stories ever. Edited to add
I was enthusing about this at fanf
and suddenly realised that Artemis = Diana = Wonder Woman, occasional canonical love interest of Batman.