The Gamester's Daughter
by Dorothy Mack
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN:0-451-19529-9
***
I really approached Dorothy Mack's latest Signet Regency with high expectations. The plot seemed interesting, the characters a bit unusual, and the premise unique. Here we have a woman who lives on the edge of respectability who finds herself involved in a murder and ends up fleeing for her life. My disappointment may result from my high expectations. For when all is said and done, The Gamester's Daughter is a perfectly acceptable Regency romance. It just didn't quite have the drama that I hoped for.

Claudia Herbert is our gamester's daughter. Her father is an army veteran who, with a fellow officer, has established a gaming establishment in Paris. Claudia has come to be with her father, to get to know him after years of separation. If this means assisting with her father's business, then that is fine. Indeed, her charm and beauty serve as an added attraction to the salon's clientele.

But Claudia knows that her actions may undermine her social position. This danger is brought home to her one night when she is coerced by her father's partner into a private game of piquet with a French roue, and sees a look of disdain on the face of a visiting Englishman. That she finds the Englishman attractive only makes his attitude more difficult to bear.

The plot thickens when one Lord Selkirk begins to win large sums of money. The partner is convinced that he is cheating and is determined to regain the money lost. His resort to robbery leads to a falling out between the partners and ultimately to Claudia's father's murder. Before he dies, the major charges Claudia with the responsibility of returning the stolen property to its rightful owner.

Claudia must flee Paris and return to England to fulfill her father's last request. By a not completely implausible set of circumstances, she finds herself coming to the rescue of that same disdainful Englishman's family. Lord Pelham his name and title is astonished when he returns home with his prospective bride to find Claudia ensconced in his home, caring for his injured niece and solving his domestic problems handily.

We now have a pretty standard plot a man about to get engaged to a "proper" young lady who will make him a "proper" wife having to deal with his undoubted attraction for an unsuitabe woman who is really suitable. Along the way, we become acquainted with his lively nieces and nephews who are under his care, his valetudinarian aunt, his domineering prospective mother-in-law, etc., and so forth. And Pelham must reevaluate his first opinion of this gamester's daughter as he gets to know her.

I like Claudia and feel that she is a very realistic heroine. She is determined to carry out her mission, but she does nothing foolish and she experiences a normal amount of fear and trepidation when she realizes she is being followed. I like Miles. He mostly behaves like a perfect gentleman and clearly loves his wards dearly. I like the nieces and nephews. They are attractive and intelligent. I like Miles' neighbors. I even like Martha, Miles' prospective bride and am glad that she too has her happy-ever-after. Everything about the book was eminently likeable, but .

The Gamester's Daughter is a perfectly respectable Regency romance written by an author who knows the period and who captures its flavor quite well. Fans of the genre will undoubtedly find it enjoyable. But there is nothing outstanding about this book either, no special spark. I guess you can call it an average Regency romance.

--Jean Mason


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