What Wild Moonlight
by Victoria Lynne
(Dell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-440-22331-8
What Wild Moonlight is a mediocre story of mystery and romance that delivers far too little of the former and stereotypical pages of the later. There is nothing very inventive or, quite frankly, interesting about this rather tepid tale involving an ancient gypsy curse and the lovers caught in its web. In fact, the first 50 pages of the book (undoubtedly the most entertaining) present the reader with a glimpse of what could have been had the author not chosen to adhere to such a well-traveled, safe road. There is an initial spirit that all but disappears from the book once the hero and heroine are placed in a situation which, even by romance standards, is stretching it a bit.

Katya Alexander meets Nicholas Duvall on the road outside Monaco when, at the urging of his cronies, Nicholas accepts a bet and takes over for the stage driver who has fallen ill. By the end of the harrowing trip, the coach will be destroyed and the two of them will drag themselves into glittering Monaco looking like something the mud queen tossed ashore.

Nicholas, the Earl of Barrington, is a descendent of the gypsy prince whose family was the mortal enemy of the Rosskayas, Katya's maternal family. There is an old legend about a big diamond and three scrolls that identify its whereabouts and Katya quickly learns of Nicholas' connection to the old legend. Of course, she doesn't tell him who she is. The daughter of famed magicians, Nicholas also believes Katya a thief when he sees her "steal" the property someone actually stole from her. He decides he could use someone so handy, as someone has stolen his scroll and he believes the thief is in Monaco. He hires Katya to pick the pockets of his friends in an effort to determine the culprit. Katya agrees to the deal in order to stick close to Nicholas and possibly learn the whereabouts of the diamond.

Nicholas believing that some thief would be walking around with a scroll in his back pocket is ridiculous. Katya agreeing to literally steal things in order not to appear a fraud is even more so. These types of plot devices do nothing to endear the reader to the characters, who reveal little about themselves throughout the proceedings.

I was somewhat surprised (albeit pleasantly) that the author chose to nimbly step around the "big understanding" that comes down the pike like a runaway train. The build up is all there…the heroine hiding her secret from a hero who believes mightily in the power of honesty, the hemming and hawing over whether to reveal her true identity, the ultimate decision taken out of her hands when someone steps in and does it for her. But that is about the only surprise contained within the pages of What Wild Moonlight.

I found the Monaco setting original, but that's about it.

--Ann McGuire

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