Duel of Hearts

The Fair Game

Falling For Chloe

The Fortune Hunter

The Nobody

Once Upon a Christmas

Under the Wishing Star

Under a Lucky Star
by Diane Farr
(Signet, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-21170-7
Diane Farr returns with a sequel to Under the Wishing Star, and it’s as romantic and absorbing as any reader could wish. Under a Lucky Star truly showcases this author’s talents, for Lady Cynthia Fitzwilliam is not, at first glance, a particularly sympathetic heroine. But under Farr’s skillful pen, she blossoms into an intriguing young woman. I was hooked by the second chapter.

Mr. Derek Whittaker (brother to Natalie in Under the Wishing Star) is serving as secretary to Lord Stokesdown, the best possible fate for a second son of minor gentry. Derek actually likes his work, and his employer is amiable and generous. One night, Derek slips out of Lord Stokesdown’s box at the opera, planning to have a look around the theater and return by the intermission. As he’s idly poking around the props area, a lovely young woman appears and begs him to help her. Derek hides her from Sir James Filey, a wealthy libertine who demands to know her whereabouts.

The young lady is Lady Cynthia Fitzwilliam, daughter of the Earl of Ballymere. Derek and Cynthia are immediately, undeniably attracted to each other, and their encounter ends with several passionate kisses. Both are shaken by the feeling of instant rapport and rightness. The intermission ends their encounter, and Derek vows to find her.

Through some detective work and machination, Derek and Cynthia end up at the same ball. By now, he’s been warned of her reputation as the “Frost Fair”, a woman who treats her admirers with icy disdain. Derek can’t believe it, until Cynthia cuts him dead and refuses to acknowledge his presence. Furious at being taken in by her beauty, Derek leaves the ball, vowing to put her from his mind. Then the announcement of her engagement is printed in the London papers. Cynthia will marry Sir James Filey.

Three years later, Derek, now the rightful owner of Crosby Hall, is traveling to Natalie’s home for a visit when he comes upon a woman leading a horse. It’s Cynthia. She is a guest at the same house party, and she has been dreading this encounter. For three years, Cynthia has been tormented by the love she was forced to abandon. The death of her fiancé cleared away one obstacle. But how can she make Derek understand? Her father gambles and drinks. Her mother views Cynthia as bait to snare a rich husband and fill the empty family coffers. Derek, while respectable, is not wealthy enough to fit the bill. And Cynthia, raised on a steady diet of “duty to family”, doesn’t know how to break away from her scheming mother’s iron grip. But her resentment is brewing.

Derek is a most excellent hero. Once he is reunited with Cynthia, he wisely abandons his previous rage and tries to understand her, instead. It’s this intelligent move on Derek’s part that sets up the rest of the story. His persistence and strength give Cynthia the support she needs to take her life into her own hands.

Cynthia is an intriguing character. I’ll admit, at first glance she could have come off as a cowed twit, but Farr does an excellent job of letting us inside her head. Cynthia truly loves her family and is grateful for all she’s been given. She would be more willing to go along with the plan to marry into money if her parents weren’t spendthrifts. But now she’s having to pay for their sins, and her resentment is about to boil over. This attitude fit the realities of the Regency perfectly, and felt completely natural. Even Cynthia’s final decision, the one that will affect the rest of her life, is a small, ladylike, but irrevocable maneuver, perfectly suited to her well-drawn character. It’s a brilliant piece of plotting.

Under a Lucky Star is Diane Farr at her best. Her skill at crafting warm, tender, utterly absorbing romance makes this a must-read. Two soulmates fighting for their love against overwhelming obstacles and succeeding – what could be more delicious than that? Don’t miss it!

--Cathy Sova

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