Cassandra's Deception

The Chester Charade

Lady Cecily's Scheme

A Magnificent Match

Tempting Sarah

Belle’s Beau by Gayle Buck
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20197-3
Belle’s Beau is a very exasperating Regency, indeed. False assumptions, big misunderstandings, a thin plot, and two unmemorable leads drag this story down into a quagmire from which it never recovers.

Lord Adam Ashdon is back in London, having taken a leave from the war effort to find himself a wife. He has one in mind: a young lady with whom he conversed in Bath while recuperating from a war wound. He doesn’t know her name, but is determined to find her. Imagine Adam’s surprise when he spots his ladylove cantering a horse at dawn in a London park. He quickly gains an introduction, and is astonished, then insulted, when she doesn’t react to his references to their conversations in Bath. What sort of game is she playing?

No game at all. For the young lady is Belle Weatherstone, in London to make her debut. Belle has been raised in the country at her grandfather’s estate, while her identical twin has been raised by her aunt and uncle in London. The girls have only recently met. (Don’t ask me why they’d be separated with no contact for eighteen years. The plot won’t stand up to that much scrutiny.) Belle has never been to Bath. It’s her twin sister that Adam remembers, and said sister is now happily engaged, while Belle is living with her aunt and uncle and planning a Season.

Adam finds himself falling for this quirky, dashing girl but is angered that she’d apparently deceive him. Belle can’t figure out what she seems to be doing that turns him off, as he is first interested and attentive, then distant.

This is a short story elasticized into a 200-page book. Absolutely nothing in this plot couldn’t be solved with three lines of dialogue. I kept imagining them:

“Don’t you remember me from Bath?”
“No, milord, I’ve never been to Bath. But I have a twin sister who has.”

Belle doesn’t help things by acting like a typical unthinking twit about halfway through the book. Of course, after Adam rescues her from her foolishness, he becomes angry with her (again). Belle lands in hot water, everyone disapproves, Adam wonders how his angel of Bath could act like this…

And what is it with Vauxhall Gardens, anyway? Let’s face it, have you ever read a Regency in which someone went to Vauxhall and didn’t get accosted by drunken thugs?

Finally the twin sister shows up, and I breathed a sigh of relief that all was to be revealed at last. But it was not to be. More false assumptions occur, and by this time Belle’s Beau was pretty much beyond hope for this reader.

In a nutshell, Belle’s Beau fell flat under the weight of its plot problems and never recovered. Gayle Buck’s talents are better represented in her other works.

--Cathy Sova

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