Breach of Promise

Captain Cupid Calls the Shots

The Holly & the Ivy

A Regency Christmas

A Regency Christmas Present

Sugarplum Surprises

Valentineís Change of Heart
by Elisabeth Fairchild
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20772-6
Iíve read a number of Elisabeth Fairchildís books, but I donít recall them being this thick with fussy, lead-weighted prose. Trying to move through this story is a bit like trying to walk underwater. It takes twice the effort and you only move half as fast. Frankly, it tired me out.

Valentine Wharton, first introduced in Captain Cupid Calls the Shots has given up drink and is going to try and be a decent father to his illegitimate daughter, Felicity. Arriving at Felicityís school, he discovers that sheís often the brunt of cutting remarks about her parentage. The one person who sticks up for her is Miss Deering, a quiet young woman who is given the sack on that same day. Seems Miss Deering resisted the advances of her former employer, who is trying to ruin her reputation and force her to be his mistress out of desperation. Val finds himself offering Miss Deering a position as Felicityís governess.

Elaine Deering isnít sure about Valentine Wharton. His reputation has preceded him, but accepts a lift to Manchester. Elaine soon changes her mind and comes to view Val as a troubled, but deeply devoted, father. She agrees to accompany Val and Felicity to his estate in Wales and accept the governess position. With a housekeeper in tow, they head for the coast.

Val is drawn to quiet, unassuming Elaine, who is so different from Penny, the woman he lost to his best friend, Cupid. Secondary characters try to prevent their growing attraction. Valís mother is determined to wed him wed to a society miss. Penny believes it will only lead to heartbreak. Elaine, whose father drank and gambled their fortune away, finds it hard to trust Val.

The story moves at the speed of molasses, and is told in an overly descriptive, almost oblique style that sinks like a rock. Nearly every page contains an internal aside, as Val and Elaine constantly wonder what the other is thinking. Thereís lots of melancholy and self-torment, too, and in the end all this Regency navel-gazing simply turned me off. Others may find this style of writing evocative; here it just felt pretentious. Plus, it got in the way of the story. I kept catching myself thinking ďJust get on with it!Ē

Valís desperation when faced with the temptation of drink is nicely drawn, and his devotion to his little daughter is charming. He truly wants to be a good father and is scared to death heíll muck it up. Plus, heís half in love with Penny still, or at least his memory of what she was. Valís realization that life has handed him a second chance does finally dawn, but itís quite late in the story, and a fair amount of moping and brooding has occupied him up to that point.

Elaine was much easier to like. She gives quite a good impression of a young woman with few options open to her, and she does the best with her limited choices. Elaine never questions the idea that Val must marry far above her station, and she manages to convey a dignified, but resigned air while falling in love with him.

This is a difficult book to rate because some readers may find Elisabeth Fairchildís chosen style for Valentineís Change of Heart to be much more entertaining. If you like your Regencies to focus on the story and move a bit briskly, this probably isnít your best choice, though. Try one of the authorís other books, instead.

--Cathy Sova

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