The Marriage Campaign

A Rake’s Redemption

A Scandalous Journey

Twist of Fate

Twin Peril by Susannah Carleton
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-21588-5
Twin Peril is the fourth entry in Susannah Carleton’s experiment with related books detailing the romantic escapades of a group of musical young ladies known as “The Six.” The first two stories took place in a parallel time frame, as do this story and its predecessor, A Rake’s Redemption. At the end of the previous book, I hoped to see the Duke of Fairfax and Lady Deborah Woodhurst in their own story, and Ms. Carleton has cheerfully obliged.

Michael Winslow, a rather quiet, unassuming type of man, is being hounded by his dowager grandmother to choose a bride and beget an heir. Michael knows his looks are average, though his fortune is vast, and he longs to meet a woman who can appreciate the man underneath the title of Duke. Lady Deborah Woodhurst has caught his eye, and in her presence, he feels comfortable and happy. Could she be the one?

Deborah is tired of being half of the famously beautiful Woodhurst Twins, and she longs to meet a man who can tell her apart from her sister, Diana. Michael Winslow, the attractive Duke of Fairfax, seems interested in her as a person, but does he really see her as an individual? Diana, meanwhile, is scheming to snare the Duke for herself as a grand matrimonial prize, and she’ll use any means to trap him. Even attempting to impersonate her sister.

Michael can tell the twins apart instantly, but decides to keep the knowledge to himself. This way, he reasons, he can get to know Deborah and see if she is as interested in him as he is in her. (This reasoning felt a little shaky, but I was willing to go with it.) Their shared love of music draws them together, and as Diana’s schemes edge toward nefarious, Michael is pushed into the role of hero, a role he never imagined himself fulfilling. Yet it’s one he gladly assumes to protect his ever-more-beloved Deborah.

Twin Peril is a quiet book, filled with conversation and detail. Readers looking for an action-packed story should keep on looking. But for a sweet young lady and a rather shy Duke, this framework fits perfectly. Deborah and Michael both want to be loved and appreciated for their personal qualities, and in order for them to discover each other, they need to spend time together – and the author makes sure they do. Their conversations during rides in the park, at balls, and in the music room of Michael’s town house deepen their relationship right before the reader’s eyes. By the time the book is halfway finished, you get the feeling that Michael could tell the twins apart in the dark, and he’s not going to let anything happen to his darling Deborah.

Sweet, gentle romance aside, there is what seems like a hundred secondary characters in the book. This is a problem that has plagued this series from the outset: counting their beaux, The Six make for twelve major characters. At times I couldn’t keep them straight. The author even kept a few of them offstage for this story, and it was still confusing at times.

But Michael and Deborah are such enjoyable characters, it was worth sifting through the cast to read their story. Diana is appropriately spoiled and nasty, and the comeuppances she gets deliver a satisfying punch. I can’t imagine the author trying to write her a story as a lead character, though, so perhaps this was her swan song. And Michael and Deborah deliver a surprising amount of heat under the surface, as he begins to court her with unexpected kisses and touches. It was fun to watch the shy exterior give way to a bit of daring as the Duke sets out to win his ladylove.

Twin Peril is an excellent example of a sweet Regency with a tight focus on the main romance. This is one for readers to savor.

--Cathy Sova

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