Red Roses Mean Love

Whirlwind Wedding by Jacquie D’Alessandro
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-23551-0
Elizabeth Matthews is my idea of a perfect heroine for, oh, eighty-five percent of this book. She’s warm and witty and intelligent and talented and kind. She’s brave too, but eschews foolhardiness for the most part. I can even accept that she’s gifted with the sight and can see events and people both far away and in the future. Then she has to go spoil it by acting in an improbable fashion. I know, I know! The author had to sustain the romantic tension after Elizabeth’s whirlwind wedding to Austin Jamison, Duke of Bradford. I just wish Jacquie D’Alessandro had found a better way to achieve this sometimes difficult goal. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Elizabeth is an American, thrust into English high society when her father dies and she is forced to seek a home with her English aunt, Lady Pembroke. Her lack of social polish and ignorance of proper drawing room behavior have not endeared her to the ton. She is known as the upstart colonial. But her aunt is a countess and thus she is included in a houseparty at the Duke of Bradford’s country residence.

The duke is a troubled man. His younger brother William died at Waterloo, but Austin knows a secret that could destroy his hero brother’s reputation and bring disgrace upon his family. Now, apparently someone else knows as well, for the duke is being blackmailed. Finding the gaiety of the party unbearable, Austin escapes to the garden, only to have Miss Elizabeth Matthews fall at his feet, literally.

Elizabeth, too, has sought the solace of the garden, but has found a kitten in distress. Her attempt to rescue said feline leads to her embarrassing position. Austin is immediately intrigued by this unusual young lady who seems unimpressed by his person and his title. But he becomes understandably suspicious when Elizabeth, having had one of her unusual visions, informs him that his brother William is alive. He finds her explanation of her gift hard to believe.

Further encounters between the two increase Austin’s interest in Elizabeth, if not his acceptance that she has indeed these special powers. When she “sees” the duke in trouble, Elizabeth rushes to his rescue. This leads to the two being found in a compromising situation which leads inevitably to a hurried wedding.

Austin is soon entranced by his unexpected wife while Elizabeth has fallen head over heels in love with her handsome husband. Then, one of her visions drives a wedge between the two and we have the problem I alluded to above. But Austin needs Elizabeth to help him ferret out the mystery of his brother’s fate and the two plunge headlong into danger.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the author’s falling back on the dreaded big misunderstanding as a plot device, I am recommending this book. There is so much to like about it that I am willing to overlook this flaw.

What is there to like? Well, obviously the heroine. The hero is no slouch either. It’s fun to watch him unbend and become much less duke-ly. The repartee between Elizabeth and Austin is delightful. And the love scenes are first-rate. There are lots of well drawn secondary characters and a nice secondary romance. There is humor and suspense as well.

So I am willing to forgive D’Alessandro’s single misstep, because the rest of Whirlwind Wedding is so well done. I enjoyed reading it, and there can be no better recommendation.

--Jean Mason

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