The Devil and Miss Webster

His Saving Grace

To Marry an Heiress

Lady Olivia to the Rescue
by Julia Parks
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7716-5
Lady Olivia Cunningham appears to be a paragon in every way. Beautiful, charming, and possessed of a heart of gold, her outlook on life is eternally sunny. When she meets the gruff and grumpy Drew Benton, Marquess of Sheridan at a ball, Olivia is intrigued. Why is this attractive man so unhappy? Perhaps itís because he lacks a wife to love, she reasons.

Drew has ample reason to be rather dour. Heís the widowed father of several children, all of whom are away at school. His wife was distant, and Drew has never known the happiness found in a loving marriage. Heís basically made his fortune by gambling. Banding together with several disaffected friends, Drew is enduring Londonís Season because his own daughter will soon need to come out in Society. His distaste for the social set and their useless fripperies is based on his own desire to help the poor, something that the ton has no interest in doing.

Drew and Olivia donít find much to like in one another, at least not at first. He believes sheís another useless socialite; she thinks heís fairly obnoxious in his outlook. But perhaps, Olivia reasons, if she can put her talents as a matchmaker to use, she can find someone for Drew to love. Drew, who canít believe a woman could be so blasted cheerful all the time, finds Olivia to be rather irritating, if rather fun to needle. Yet the better they get to know one another, the more they find their preconceived notions to be far from the truth.

Olivia is involved in a plan to help give Londonís prostitutes a chance at a better life. While interesting, this plot point also made Olivia look like a dimwit in several instances. She comes across as a woman whose heart is in the right place, but who is quite content to trip lightly back to her comfortable life after her attempts to spread sunshine among the streetwalkers. And she never seems to miss a ball or party, or miss a chance to be dressed in her best. I was with Drew in finding her a bit annoying.

Drew is the more interesting character, as he actually has to make a change in his outlook during the story. Heís never known a woman to take an interest in anything outside of Society, so even Oliviaís somewhat disjointed assistance to the prostitutes comes as a huge surprise. There are several secondary characters that figure in a few subplots, too. All in all, this is a fairly busy story.

Yet, with the exception of Drew, none of the characters lingered long in my mind after finishing the book, which means it falls into the ďacceptableĒ category. Lady Olivia to the Rescue will provide a few hours of pleasant diversion, though.

--Cathy Sova

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