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Another enjoyable Regency Romance
on 30 January 2007
This is the follow-up to "The Perfect Rake" following the same family of five sisters, this time focusing on the twin called Hope. Although there are occasional references to the events in "The Perfect Rake" it isn't necessary to have read that book to understand this one - however the details of the difficulties that the five girls (Prudence, Charity, Hope, Faith and Grace) experienced growing up with their evil grandfather are spelled out in that book and only alluded to in this.
Hope is at the start of her second season. Her two elder sisters Prudence and Charity are happily married and she and her twin Faith are meeting various men at balls and parties etc, but none of them quite hit the mark. Then she catches sight of someone who rather reminds her of her evil grandfather - a strong and muscular man. Despite this initial negative connotation she finds herself interested in Reyne. He asks to waltz with her and although not a comfortable dance, and in no way living up to her ideal of the perfect waltz, she is intrigued by him.
Sebastian is courting Lady Elinore, a prudish woman who has been on the shelf for years and is several years older than him. He's not courting Lady Elinore for his own means but because he needs a mother for his younger sisters who had been taken away from him when they were young and have only just been found after over a decade of being missing. Sebastian doesn't know in detail what happened to the girls in this time but Cassie wears a knife strapped to her leg and Dorie doesn't speak at all. Sebastian needs someone who can help look after the girls as governesses are being hopeless. He knows that Lady Elinore is involved in a charity school for orphans and thinks she's just the ticket.
Unfortunately for him he sees Hope Merrivale at a ball and from that moment he's smitten. Not enough to deflect him from his strange courtship of Lady Elinore, but he is unable to keep away entirely from Hope and keeps spending time with her. He thinks she's a young woman who has no concept of the difficulties his sisters have had and therefore can't help them - he doesn't know the Merrivale sisters' difficult past.
There aren't any great surprises in this book. Hope has to learn to trust a man again, Sebastian has to understand the true needs of his sisters, Lady Elinore has to throw off the shackles of her unconventional and life-crushing upbringing and Sebastian's friend Giles has to learn to look beyond a woman's outward appearance to discover a genuine women beneath. The twin love stories in this book are gently written and the characters are engaging. My only reservations are that Sebastian seems remarkably mercenary about Lady Elinore and that he also seems very blinkered about what would be good for his sisters; equally, Hope doesn't seem to see anything wrong with riding roughshod over someone else's strongly-held beliefs about teaching the children in her care. Their attraction seems largely physical for the first half of the book, although once they get to know each other you can understand more why they suit.
This is an enjoyable book and a definite step up from a lot of the mass-market paperback regencies. It's not aiming to be a historically accurate work like Georgette Heyer but it's an enjoyable read.