The Nobody by Diane Farr
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19771-2
****
The author of The Nobody is destined to be a Somebody, at least in the world of the Regency romance. This is as charming a debut book as any reader could hope for. Diane Farr strikes all the right romantic chords in this story of an intelligent older sister who tries to help her younger sibling have a successful Season and ends up in the middle of an unexpected romance.

Caitlin Campbell is more amused than thrilled by the news that her Aunt Harriet is offering to present both herself and her younger sister Emily in a London Season. Emily is the acknowledged blonde beauty of the family; Caitlin the tall, redheaded intellectual whose wry sense of humor and clear-sighted self-appraisal haven't resulted in a bevy of suitors. Not that there are all that many in the small Hertfordshire town where her family resides. But if Emily wishes to have a Season, Caitlin will accompany her to Aunt Harriet's and perhaps enjoy a bit of London into the bargain.

Soon after her arrival, Caitlin attends a party with her newfound friend and confidante, Serena Selcroft. Caitlin overhears a conversation between Serena and Serena's future sister-in-law, in which the nasty Lady Elizabeth pressures Serena to drop Caitlin, claiming that Caitlin is a social-climbing upstart. Humiliated, Caitlin escapes the party and decides to walk the few short blocks home to Aunt Harriet's town house. On the way, she is accosted by a man who drags her into a doorway and kisses her. It's a ruse to throw off a gang of footpads who are chasing him, but Caitlin is shocked – both by his effrontery and by her response.

Caitlin manages to escape, though the man appears to be a gentleman and even offers to escort her home. She arrives home to find her gown smeared with blood. Apparently the mysterious man was injured as well. But hopefully she'll never see him again and her reputation will be safe.

The mysterious man turns out to be none other than Lord Kilverton, brother to Serena and fiancé to Lady Elizabeth. It isn't long before the two run into one another again and recognize each other. Kilverton is intrigued by this tall beauty who has no notion of her own charms. And Lady Elizabeth is quick to notice and scheme to get rid of Caitlin. Theirs is not a love match anyway; now Kilverton must reassess his plans. Caitlin offers him so much more than he ever thought possible. Is he willing to settle for a "proper" marriage after all?

In the meantime, someone is trying to do away with Kilverton, ostensibly to remove him from the line of succession. Suspects abound. Serena and Emily find themselves vying for the affections of the same man, but he's the right man for only one of them. And Caitlin can't believe that Kilverton would have any real interest in her at all.

The characterizations in this book were delightful. Caitlin was independent while still seeming true to the Regency period, and Kilverton was suitably muddled on the idea of marriage versus love. The one quibble I had was that Kilverton is always referred to as just that – Kilverton, or Lord Kilverton, never by his first name. In fact, I'm not sure a first name was ever mentioned. It had the effect of keeping him at a bit of a distance, and I would have liked to warm up to him more.

But the plot was great fun, the characters were lively, and the ending came as a surprise. The Nobody is a delightful first effort for new author Diane Farr, and I look forward to her future works. Regency lovers, this one will definitely please.

--Cathy Sova


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