All Through The Night by Connie Brockway
(Dell, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-440-22372-5
****
I seem to hear a lot of complaints lately that some of our favorite romance authors are disappointing their readers. The principal complaint seems to be that their new books are often just a old story re-told with a few subtle (or even not so subtle) changes. So sometimes you have to take a chance and try a new author. I suggest Connie Brockway.

Her books are definitely not old stories retold. In fact, her latest book, All Through the Night is a very unusual story. Imagine a book set in Regency England in which neither the hero, nor the heroine is of the nobility. In fact, the hero is a bastard and a spy, and the heroine is a widow and a thief whose only title is just plain Mrs. And yet both of these characters, for reasons well explained in the book, are prominent in Regency society.

Colonel Jack Seward is England's greatest spy. From dubious beginnings as the illegitimate child of a Scottish maid, he has risen through hard work and luck to become England's most successful secret agent. But his assignment now is to capture the infamous thief who has inadvertently stolen something very vital to the British government.

The heroine, Anne Wilder, is a rich, beautiful widow of a war hero, who has become a prim and proper companion to a spoiled debutante by day and a very adept cat burglar skimming the London rooftops by night. Troubled by memories of a guilty past, her only moments of feeling alive again are when she brazenly and foolishly risks her life.

Now the stage is set for the man known as Whitehall's Hound to set out to capture the thief known as Wrexhall's Wraith. And from their first meeting, where the Wraith humiliates the Hound, they become almost obsessed with each other and with the thrill of the hunt.

That sexual tension in All Through the Night was the most seductive I'd read in a book in a very long while. The two characters are intensely, immediately, passionately attracted to each other. As a reader, I felt almost embarrassed to watch (well, read). In fact, that was perhaps my only minor dissatisfaction with the book -- I became impatient waiting for them to get together. But before they were actually 'together' there were some powerfully tense and exciting scenes.

I have my own name for books like All Through the Night. I call them baggage books. Both main characters have troubled pasts -- which can make for heavy reading. This isn't a book for everyone. But for readers who like a compelling story with complex, fascinating characters and sexual tension that will have you breathing deeply, All Through the Night is definitely a must read.

And what a moving read! The cat and mouse of the hunt, together with these two magnetic, mature characters whose troubled pasts are revealed in tantalizing glimpses, combine to draw the reader deep into a world of mystery, intrigue, and raging passion. For those with a taste for originality and depth of characterization, this is a trip well worth making.

--Dede Anderson


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