Romance Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, February 2001

The Duke by Gaelen Foley

Ivy Books, December 2000.
Paperback, 400 pages.
ISBN: 0449006360.
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The Duke
by Gaelen Foley So far all of the men in the lovely Belinda Hamilton's life have miserably disappointed her. Her scholarly father's pride and ineptitude landed him in debtor's prison, and her on the street. After being raped and sold to the highest bidder, Bel has no choice but to enter the demimonde, where she quickly becomes London's most sought-after courtesan. The Duke of Hawkscliffe is determined to find out the truth about the murder of his ladylove, and is willing to sully his reputation by starting a liaison with a courtesan. He makes a deal with Bel which is strictly business, as the two set out to find a murderer. The pair soon fall madly in love. But a Duke must never marry his mistress; it would be the scandal of the decade.

The Duke is a very unusual historical romance. The heroine, Bel, has had the absolute worst that could happen to a girl of good family in 1814 England -- she was ruined in the eyes of polite society. After this shocking beginning, the storyline moves forward quickly as Bel determines to make the best life for herself that she can, given her circumstances. Gaelen Foley provides a backdrop of the horrible injustices of the aristocratic society of the time, which provided severe penalties to those who didn't measure up to the ton's high standards. Poverty among the lower classes was also rampant, as was child prostitution. Robert Knight, the Duke of Hawkscliffe is a man bent on vengeance and on reforming some of England's worst societal practices, and his romance with Bel is both moving and passionate. Gaelen Foley is a very talented author whose stories will keep you thinking long after you've finished the book.

Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd

Avon, October 2000.
Paperback, 351 pages.
ISBN: 0380811987.
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Rules of Engagement
by Christina Dodd Miss Pamela Lockhart, co-owner of the Distinguished Academy of Governesses, is in a tight spot. The business which has seemed so promising is going to fold if it doesn't get some new clients -- fast. Enter Devon Mathewes, earl of Kerrich. Devon is being blackmailed by his old childhood friend, Queen Victoria. If he doesn't reform his rakish ways and become respectable, she will withdraw her considerable fortune from his family bank. So Devon decides to hire an older, spinsterish governess and adopt a child, to give him an air of respectability. Desperate for the money, Pamela disguises herself as an old crone and takes up her duties as governess to young Beth, an orphan who was easily purchased from the orphanage. Meanwhile, Devon is dealing with a very serious counterfeiting problem at the bank which could destroy his family. To his horror, the Devon gets to know Pamela, the more he finds himself attracted to her. But she's just an old crone...isn't she?

Rules of Engagement is classic Christina Dodd; it's funny, it's sexy and it's over way too soon. The arrogant Devon is a real marshmallow at heart and his encounters with fatherhood are quite funny. But it is his interactions with the strangely attractive Pamela that are the most entertaining. The dialogue is quick and witty and the two leads are quite endearing. This second entry in the Governess Brides series is not to be missed.

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

Avon, December 2000.
Paperback, 376 pages.
ISBN: 0380815575.
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The Viscount Who Loved Me
by Julia Quinn According to the hottest gossip paper in 1814 London, Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, the notorious rake Anthony Bridgerton has no intent of settling down this season, although he seems to be showing an interest in the Diamond of the Season, Edwina Sheffield. But Edwina's older sister Kate has no intention of letting the notorious roué anywhere near her beloved little sister. For his part, Viscount Bridgerton has determined that it is time to find a nice, quiet, acceptable wife, one with whom he will never make the mistake of falling in love. Infuriated by his inability to get to Edwina without first getting Kate's approval, Anthony sets out to charm one sister to get to the other. Kate infuriates Anthony with her constant arguing and her outspoken ways, but also finds that he actually likes her. Suddenly, Edwina doesn't seem quite the beauty compared to the fiery Kate. But Kate wants nothing to do with such a moral reprobate, and Anthony is in a position for the first time in his life of not being able to get what he wants when he wants it.

The Viscount Who Loved Me is a wonderful tale of a plain, older sister who really loves her beautiful younger sister, who is smart and wise -- and not in the least interested in the handsome Viscount herself. Julia Quinn manages to avoid the standard stereotypes in her charming regency romances; her characters and situations are always fresh, unique and quite funny. Her repartée sparkles and is genuinely amusing, and the growing passion between Kate and Anthony is a joy to behold. This is another gem from the talented Julia Quinn you won't want to miss.

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