His Saving Grace
by Julia Parks
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7320-8
**
His Saving Grace is a one-trick pony that is simply worked to death. The “conflict” here consists of the same scene, played out no less than nine times throughout the book. Twice would have been plenty.

Adam Havenhurst, younger brother of an Earl, is the new vicar of Pixley. Adam is pleased to be standing on his own two feet, albeit he must do it in a tiny, decrepit manse. Things brighten considerably when he makes the acquaintance of Miss Grace Edgewood, a teacher at a local school for girls. Adam’s delight is considerably dimmed when he discovers the curriculum taught at this school: Not only are the girls learning mathematics and music, they are also studying Latin, Greek, swimming, and soon, fencing. As vicar, Adam decides he simply can’t approve and it’s his duty to put a stop to it. This would be annoying enough, but his character is inconsistent. He waffles back and forth between “man of God” and “being appointed God”; sometimes the lessons bother him, at other times they don’t.

Grace, for her part, is quite taken with the handsome new vicar. If only he weren’t such a prig! This reader couldn’t agree more. When Adam’s elder brother, the rakehell Earl, and his domineering mother arrive, the waters become muddied as Grace tries to make Adam jealous and Adam decides Grace prefers his brother.

Unfortunately, the plot spins in circles. Adam and Grace meet, quarrel, part in a huff, decide to apologize, meet again, quarrel, stomp off, decide to apologize, meet… “tiresome” doesn’t begin to describe it. The upshot of this (nine times, remember) is that these two have no chemistry whatsoever and appear to be little more than squabbling children. They never sit down and discuss their differences, and they spend way too much time assuming they know what the other wants, so it’s hard to care what becomes of them. A romance? Hardly.

Enough of Adam and Grace. Let’s turn our attention to the Earl of Havenhurst, who is the subject of the next book by “Julia Parks” (who is also Donna Bell). The Earl is a lot more interesting than his younger brother. He’s a man who turned to dissolution to drown his sorrow after the death of his beloved wife, but there are flashes of humor and decency in his character. His story could be quite interesting.

Too bad the secondary character of the Earl is the only saving grace in His Saving Grace. I’ll look for his story when it comes out, but recommend you give this one a pass.

-- Cathy Sova


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