Tempting Sarah by Gayle Buck
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19466-7
Do you want a book that provides a fairly complete but dispassionate accounting of the rather prosaic adventures of two country girls who come to London to visit their grandmother for the season? Because that seems to be the gist of Gayle Buck's latest Regency.

Oh, there is a modicum of drama. The elder sister Sarah develops a tendre for the handsome Lord Eustace who in turn seems to be infatuated with the younger sister Margaret who has fallen in love with the dashing military man Captain Jeffries who is rejected by the grandmother who is determined that Sarah and Margaret will make brilliant matches to make up for the fact that their mother eloped with an unsuitable younger son. So Margaret elopes, goes home and marries Captain Jeffries with her father's approval and Lord Eustace decides he really loves Sarah and there you have it.

To be frank, Tempting Sarah had about as much liveliness as the above paragraph. The characters were drawn very realistically. I am sure that Sarah and Margaret were very much like most Regency misses to be blunt, pretty dull and uninteresting. Lord Eustace was certainly a paragon: kind to his mother and his nephews, charitable in his endeavors, proper in his behavior. Nothing much out of the ordinary. The grandmother was a bit of a tartar, determined to have her own way. But she was far from a selfish monster; just a bit unfeeling. Even the dashing Captain Jeffries didn't dash too much. He was really quite an acceptable suitor, just not up to grandmama's standards.

Buck did a fine job of detailing the social round that made up the Season during the Regency: the evenings at Almacks, the balls, the routs, the morning calls, the shopping. Made that seem dull too.

I guess you can tell that I found Tempting Sarah not very tempting. It simply didn't have any spark, any tension, any life. So I cannot recommend this book, even to the most dedicated Regency buff. You would be much better served to go and read an old Balogh or Kelly.

Faithfulness to the conventions of Regency behavior is not enough to make a good tale. I do not need yet another description of the food at Almack's or riding in Hyde Park at the fashionable hour or routs that are sad crushes or visits to dressmakers or shopping in Regent's Street or ices at Gunter's or visits to Astley's. I need an interesting and/or amusing and/or gripping and/or entertaining story. Buck did not come through.

--Jean Mason

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