A Bird in the Hand

The Beleaguered Earl

Birds of a Feather

The Clandestine Courtship

Devall's Angel

Double Deceit

The Notorious Widow

The Purloined Papers

<The Rake & the Wallflower

The Second Lady Emily

Too Many Matchmakers

Kindred Spirits by Allison Lane
(Signet Regency, $4.99, PG) ISBN: 0-451-20743-2
“I could not love thee, loved I not honor more” or something like that. (I’m not too good at remembering quotes.) This is the theme of Allison Lane’s new Regency romance. Unfortunately, the hero’s love of honor is so obsessive that it weakens what otherwise is a very interesting and entertaining book.

We meet Colonel Jack Caldwell several months after the Battle of Waterloo. He has retreated to the estate he inherited to “recover” from the grave wounds he received on that bloody day. He has little memory of how he happened to receive his wounds, but he has fragmentary visions of having murdered a fellow officer and fled the field like a coward. This convinces him that the bad blood that he has sought all his life to overcome (his “noble” father is a horrible fellow and his brother every bit as bad), has finally come irresistibly to the fore. Never mind that he has fought valiantly and heroically for years and is admired and trusted by no less than the Duke himself. “Blood will out” - another shaky quote.

Jack decides that suicide is the only answer but honor demands that it appear to be an accident. Just as he is about to “fall” over a convenient cliff, he hears a woman scream. Then she rushes to the edge and catches him before he can achieve his purpose.

Marianne Barnett recognizes the man on the cliff. He is “Jacques,” the English officer who twelve years earlier helped a traumatized twelve year old escape from France when war resumed after the failure of the Peace of Amiens. Marianne immediately recognizes that she and Jack are “kindred spirits” because both are emotionally wounded.

Marianne’s horrible experience of losing her entire family had left her distressed and confused. Her unsympathetic aunt and uncle had concluded that she was mentally deranged and had sent her off to the estate she had inherited from her father. There she had remained for twelve years, alone except for a few servants, guards and her books. Now approaching her majority, she wants to take control of her property but is fearful of meeting people. But she has no fear of Jack and he feels responsible for the woman whom he saved.

Jack gives up his suicide plans for the moment as he tries to convince Marianne to face the world. Then, when her greedy relatives threaten to seize her property and send her to an asylum, Jack saves her and does the only thing he can do to save her: he marries Marianne.

I found Marianne an intriguing character. Watching her gradually overcome both the isolation imposed on her and her own fears about her sanity was fascinating. Lane wisely does not minimize the difficulties that her heroine faces. There is no instant cure; recovery takes time and determination.

Jack is a more problematic character. Perhaps I am demonstrating a lack of sympathy, but his conviction that he is a murderer and a coward and a disgrace is just not, well, heroic. Especially at the end when he appears to be behaving dishonorably by ignoring a promise he makes to his wife. Of course, all is made clear and all the loose ends are tied up, perhaps too neatly.

Lane’s concept and heroine are interesting and the description of Marianne’s gradual recovery and vindication are well done. However, my problems with Jack detracted from my enjoyment of Kindred Spirits. Hence, while I found it to be an acceptable romance, I can’t quite recommend it.

--Jean Mason

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