Alas, My Love

The Cad

The Challenge

The Chance

The Choice

The Conquest

The Devil's Bargain

Gypsy Lover

The Return of the Earl

A Regency Christmas

To Tempt a Bride

To Wed a Stranger

How to Seduce a Bride
by Edith Layton
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-075785-X
Daisy Tanner has survived years of exile and abuse in Australia. Transported along with her disreputable, well-born father, she was forced into marriage at sixteen to a brutish guard on the ship. Now her abusive, cheapskate husband has died, and Daisy is free and wealthy. She decides she will return to England and marry the Earl of Egremont, whoís twice her age but was also transported unjustly so will be sympathetic to her plight. She knows she has to marry because remaining single is not an option in the early nineteenth century, but she doesnít want the marital intimacies she fears with a younger man.

Geoffrey Sauvage, Earl of Egremont, remembers Daisy well and has admired her courage in the face of adversity. He is glad to introduce her to his friends and society in general. His friend Leland Grant, Viscount Haye, however, is deeply suspicious. He suspects Daisy of deceits and dastardly plots and believes she has dishonorable designs on the Earl. He vows to uncover the truth and protect his older friend.

Meanwhile, Daisy is beginning to realize that Geoff isnít as antique and infirm as she had hoped back in Australia and maybe she might want to rethink her plan.

Few authors in the historical romance genre are as honest in their portrayal of the Regency setting as Ms. Layton. She introduces her readers to the seamier side of the era. A large part of the population lived in deplorable conditions and dire poverty. Her readers get a glimpse of the reality, not only the fantasy, of the time.

The main characters in How to Seduce a Bride, Daisy, Geoff, and Leland are multi-dimensional. In spite of her pitiable history, Daisy is less than a completely sympathetic character. Her self-serving and calculating plot to marry the good-hearted Geoff makes her hard to like much less to hope sheíll succeed. My unenthusiastic reaction to this book, however, goes deeper than mere discomfort with an unsympathetic heroine.

Itís tough when youíve loved an authorís books for years, followed her from traditional Regencies to super Regencies to historicals, consider one of her novels to be among the best romances ever published, have a score or more of her books stashed under your bed, and then said author produces a book like How to Seduce a Bride. Compared with Love in Disguise, this is the literary equivalent of the poor relation with questionable legitimacy.

The plot and character parallels between How to Seduce a Bride and Love in Disguise struck me within a few chapters. In Love in Disguise the lovely, well-educated daughter of a wealthy tradesman falls in love at first sight with a handsome but impoverished nobleman who in turn loves the daughter of an aristocrat and a taciturn friend of the nobleman loves the tradesmanís daughter and in addition thereís a complicated subplot involving danger and the criminal underworld headed by an enigmatic crime lord who understands more than just about anyone else. It features solid character development, a plot that doesnít announce the denouement in the first few chapters, and a completely satisfying romance.

How to Seduce a Bride has reduced the number of characters and pared the non-romance subplots to a minimum, but the love triangle still features a wealthy beauty with humble origins and two noblemen and the question which one will she choose in the end. Itís not much of a mystery in How to Seduce a Bride Ė even a novice reader unfamiliar with romance traditions should be able to figure out who gets whom before too long. Various characters from several other recent works by the author clutter the list of players but add little to the action.

If youíre a reader who is not well acquainted with the authorís impressive backlist, you may find How to Seduce a Bride a good choice. Ms. Laytonís characters are well drawn and her use of setting is skillful. But if youíve had a long relationship with the authorís works, you may be disappointed in this latest effort. Compared to her previous works such as The Abandoned Bride, The Fire-Flower, Love in Disguise, and multiple others, How to Seduce a Bride is Layton Lite. In comparison to other romances being published today, it may qualify as acceptable, but itís a long way from a keeper.

--Lesley Dunlap

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