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Secrets of a Proper Lady
by Victoria Alexander
(Avon, $7.99, PG) ISBN 0-06-088264-6
****
Delightful. Energetic. Slightly off-kilter. These are the words that immediately come to mind as I sit down to write this review. I enjoyed Secrets of a Proper Lady and I recommend it to others looking for a bit of fun.

The premise is basic, yet complicated. Lady Cordelia (age 25) is being asked to wed a man she doesn’t know by her father, Lord Marsham, who needs an influx of money to complete some deals. Without the money, the family will be in financial straits, but not destitute. She is independent and doesn't want to marry for anything but love.

Daniel Sinclair is a self-made man, although he does have family money too. He is an American in England, gaining investors for a railroad venture. His father has made a deal with Lord Marsham that Daniel will marry his daughter in order to join the two families and their shipping businesses, both of which need money. Daniel doesn’t want to, especially since he is involved in a wager to be the last of four friends to marry. He is one of the last two standing.

Daniel and Cordelia have not met. Cordelia develops a plan to have her companion and cousin Sarah meet Daniel's man of business Warren in order to gain information that will help her evaluate Daniel's character through the eyes of someone who knows him best. Her hope is that Sarah will gather the truth if she gathers the information. But at the last minute Cordelia decides she can't put Sarah in that position. She goes to meet Warren on his daily walk, but she tells him she is Sarah. Coincidentally, and unbeknownst to Cordelia, Warren has gotten ill and the man she meets is none other than Daniel. Now Daniel thinks he is talking to Sarah, so he doesn't tell her he isn't Warren, thinking to gather information about Cordelia on the sly.

Ah yes, the old mistaken-identity plot. What makes this fun is that they meet several times, each thinking the other is someone else. They each feel angst because they are attracted to someone who is not the person they are supposed to marry and in addition, someone that they know is close to that person, thus making them off limits. What follows is a series of antics, fun, silliness and relationship-building. The two share humor, interesting conversation and even a kiss.

There are continuing complications including several other plots by the two to foil the marriage plans. They haven't officially met, they have only corresponded. Yet they have met and are falling in love with each other - even if they think it is the wrong person. Alexander makes this work with her wonderful dialogue and the flawed thinking that each of them undertake. I chuckled many times. I even laughed out loud a few times. And I found their logic full of whimsy, which was endearing since they were so convinced they were right and yet knew they were wrong to continue on their present course.

One element I don't enjoy about Alexander's style is the long chapters. For me this is a bit of a distraction. And the story drags a bit, but this is towards the end when I wanted the resolution and she still had more twists to add. The ultimate result was perfectly done in a way that both Cordelia and Daniel got their comeuppance and their reward at the same time. This is not a story to be deeply analyzed. It is a surface romance and as such is absolutely fun and entertaining.

Secrets of a Proper Lady is recommended and will be adored by Alexander's fans as one of her most charming and fun stories. It will be enjoyed by others just for its humor, silly twists and engaging dialogue.

--Shirley Lyons


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