Beyond Compare

Hard-Hearted Texan

Impetuous

Promise Me Tomorrow

Secrets of the Heart

A Stolen Heart

Swept Away

Winterset

 
An Unexpected Pleasure
by Candace Camp
(HQN, $16.95, PG) ISBN 0373-77062-6
***
A touch of paranormal activity in the guise of dreams, a sassy and independent heroine and a charming hero are the fun parts of An Unexpected Pleasure. These are offset by a bit of an incredulous story surrounding the couple and characters that are a tad too contemporary to be convincingly Regency-era. But overall it is an acceptable reading experience.

Theo Moreland is heir to a dukedom and loves adventure. He has traveled all over the world. He has recently returned and is under the gun to settle down. His family, many of whom have been introduced in Winterset, Beyond Compare and Mesmerized, are unique in their thinking and unconventional in their actions. His father the Duke is a collector of ancient Greek art. His sisters had interesting romances and many married "beneath" their family for love. Enter a lovely young woman seeking the job of tutor for Theo's twelve-year-old twin brothers. The Duchess, Theo's mother, is enchanted and readily agrees to hire her because of their harmony in the belief that a woman can be just as capable as a man. Theo is wary for other reasons he has seen her in a dream that saved his life while in Peru ten years ago.

Megan Mulcahey is the American sister of one of the men who was on that trip to Peru and is a reporter for a local New York paper, where she has investigated corruption and child labor laws. Her brother Dennis was killed during that trip to Peru and the Mulcahey's have been told that Theo killed him, but no charges were pursued because of his rank. Megan's sister, Deidre, had a vision that Dennis came to her, saying he needed them to help him get the precious gift back. Megan and her father interpret that to mean they must travel to England and prove that Theo killed Dennis. It is assumed that Theo stole something from Dennis and they want it back.

So Meghan arrives in England and contrives a tale about tutoring so she can be hired in the Moreland home with a plan to search for the missing item and prove Theo's guilt. She is not only hired, she is embraced by the family and treated like family from the beginning. She is given a bedroom on the main floor, asked to attend dinner with the family and even gets to go to a summer ball with them. This familiarity is a bit hard to swallow given the strictures of the ton, and the reader must accept the premise that this is just the way the Morelands do things.

Theo is suspicious and finds Megan in several difficult situations, such as breaking into the Duke's collection room. But he is attracted to her and wants to think only the best of her. So he doesn't report her. Megan, meanwhile, responds to Theo like she has to no previous man. She is beginning to question if Theo could have really killed Dennis and is convinced she must seek out the answers so she can know how she should feel. The rest of the book revolves around finding these answers including visits with two other men who were on the expedition. There is intrigue, Incan legends and even some jealous women all fighting for prevalence in the remainder of the story.

Camp's style is entertaining. Even while the reader has to question a coincidence or a situation that seems a bit far-fetched, the characters of Megan and Theo are engaging. Theo is charming and humorous while also easy to like. Megan is witty and intelligent. She and Theo dance around each other and their interactive courtship is fun, even though it isn't a courtship in their eyes. The rest of the family see it and approve.

It is this relationship that carries the tale. The resolution is a bit on the unique side, but is not completely realistic for Regency England either. Suspension of belief is one of the primary skills the reader must have; An Unexpected Pleasure is that if one has that skill.

--Shirley Lyons


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