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Lost in Your Arms

My Favorite Bride

My Scandalous Bride

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The Runaway Princess

Scandalous Again

That Scandalous Evening

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A Well Favored Gentleman

A Well Pleasured Lady

My Fair Temptress
by Christina Dodd
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-06-056112-2
Christina Dodd’s latest entry in her Governess series gets off to a bumpy start thanks to whoever writes the back cover copy at Avon. While the story is supposedly set in 1849 London and Dodd mentions Queen Victoria in the text, the back cover copy touts this story as a “Regency.” Unfortunately, what awaits the reader in between the covers doesn’t make up for this faux pas. While the lead characters seem nice enough, they’re mired in clichés.

Miss Caroline Ritter is ruined. Once touted as the greatest beauty of her one and only Season, an altercation with Lord Freshfield at a party left her reputation in tatters. Her social climbing merchant father then unceremoniously threw her out of the family home, and Caroline has had to come up with honorable means in which to support herself. Unfortunately, she’s only really good at one thing – flirting. So she goes to the Distinguished Academy of Governesses looking for work as a tutor.

A position secured, she is then hired by the Duke of Nevett to help his son catch a wife. Jude Durant, the earl of Huntington has come back from a tour of the continent all “Frenchified” and is scaring off all the eligible debutantes. It is Caroline’s job to make these young girls see past Jude’s dandy dress and flamboyant manners. If she succeeds before the end of the Season, the Duke will give her a healthy bonus allowing Caroline and her younger sister to live with her mother’s family in France.

Little does anybody know that Jude is merely playing the fool in order to avenge his older brother’s murder. Absurdly dressed, and constantly waving around a handkerchief, he hopes to bring his brother’s killers to justice. Miss Ritter is a distraction, until she manages to ingratiate herself to the murderers.

Caroline and Jude are nice enough characters, but they never manage to elevate themselves to people the reader can truly care about. Jude is merely another titled fellow playing dandy to avenge his brother’s death. Yawn. Caroline is merely another bubble-headed debutante who is not really good at anything other than batting her eyelashes and making men turn stupid. She’s a nice enough girl, but honestly it’s hard to admire a person whose sole talent in life is flirting – and admits it.

Aside from the clichéd characters, the plot doesn’t help matters by being slightly absurd. Jude is unable to find a wife because he acts like a dandy. This reviewer found it incredulous that this behavior alone would cause debutantes and ambitious mamas to run scurrying in the other direction – especially when one considers that Jude is handsome and will one day be a Duke! Women forgive far greater sins to catch a husband in this day and age.

The final nail in the coffin is the ending. While Dodd gives her characters a happily ever after the story doesn’t really end. One suspects this will make readers very happy or very angry. Either way, if readers want some closure to part of the story’s conflict they’ll be stuck waiting for the next book in the series.

All in all, My Fair Temptress is rather bland. Jude and Caroline are nice enough, but hardly memorable, and the story itself is rife with clichés found in countless other books. While romance readers are accustomed to reading similar plot lines over and over again, there is nothing special here to make Dodd’s latest stand out from the pack. Diehard fans of the Governess series will likely want to pick up this new installment, but newcomers may find the whole experience rather unmemorable.

--Wendy Crutcher

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