The Artful Heir

The Gallant Gambler

The Magnolia Tree

Miss Maitland's Letters

The Noble Nephew

The Righteous Rogue

The Scandalous Heiress

The Seductive Spy

Three for Brighton

An Uncommon Courtship
by Martha Kirkland
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20132-9
Miss Eloise Kendall has known Gregory Ward eighteen years, ever since twelve year old Gregory dunked six year old Eloise in a pond, thus ruining her lovely new party dress. Almost every encounter since has led to a disaster for Eloise. So, when Gregory arrives in the neighborhood to visit his uncle, Eloise is less than pleased. Thus, Martha Kirkland offers her readers a most uncommon courtship as Eloise finds herself continually in the company of the man she detests. Not satisfied with showing us how dislike can provide an interesting basis for romance, Kirkland also provides an second love story as a beautiful widow also finds true love.

Eloise lives with her cousin, the Dowager Lady Deighton and her young brother Jeremy, her only living relatives. She is a bit of a bluestocking and has devoted herself to starting a school in the village. She was not a social success during her only season - a fact which she attributes to guess who - but is not unhappy with her lot. Her cousin is kind and her life is quite satisfactory, except when Gregory Ward arrives to visit his uncle, Lord Threwsbury.

Gregory has come to seek support from his uncle for his quest for a seat in the House of Commons. He is accompanied by Mr. Colin Jamison, his friend and political advisor. Colin is the Whig Party’s whip and an important political figure.

This is very much a character driven book. The only plot device which places Eloise’s brother in danger is quite secondary to the story, serving merely as it does to allow the male characters to show their true colors thus paving the way for the happy ending. For much of the story, we are engaged in watching our two couples interacting with each other and with the other people in the neighborhood.

The interactions are quite enjoyable. Eloise and Gregory have that history to overcome and their sparring dialogue is often amusing. It is clear early on that beneath her surface disdain, Eloise has quite confusing feelings about her long time bete noire. For his part, Gregory has never shared Eloise’s enmity and is clearly interested in the young woman.

The second romance (and I do not label it secondary because it is pretty much of equal weight) is between Lady Deighton and Colin Jamison. Theodosia lost her husband a year ago. The late Lord Deighton was a fine man, and if theirs was not a love match, Theo came to love her husband. At thirty-five she is really too young to start wearing a widow’s cap, but the idea that she might fall in love so quickly is most unsettling.

Colin has reached the age of forty without finding a woman with whom he wishes to share his life. Then he meets Theo and realizes that he has met the woman of his dreams. Knowing his own mind, he is upset when Theo hesitates to commit so quickly to a man she has known for such a short time, however fascinating she finds him.

By making her two male characters politicians, Kirkland adds additional interest to her creations. If she doesn’t quite get the politics right, well I imagine I am one of the few readers who will realize this so it won’t distract from others enjoyment of the story.

If you enjoy character driven Regencies and appreciate getting two enjoyable romances for the price of one, then you will like An Uncommon Courtship.

--Jean Mason

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