Amethyst by Lauren Royal
(Signet, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-451-19951-0
Amethyst “Amy” Goldsmith is a talented jeweler working in her family’s shop when the Great Fire of London occurs in 1666. In one tragic day she loses her livelihood, her father and, mercifully, her betrothal papers. Horrified and devastated by her father’s death, she is rescued by Colin Chase, Earl of Greystone.

Colin had been in Amy’s shop months earlier to purchase a present for his sister. While captivated by her beauty and talent, he passes it off as a simple infatuation. After all he is betrothed to Lady Priscilla Hobbs, a cold fish emotionally, but incredibly wealthy. And Colin needs that wealth to rebuild his estates.

The fire brings Amy and Colin together in a time of chaos, when societal norms are briefly abandoned. They are instantly drawn to each other and ignite some wicked sexual tension. However, their newfound desire seems destined to go unfulfilled. Colin has already spent a good portion of Priscilla’s dowry renovating his estate, and Amy made a promise to her father to continue the family business.

Will Colin and Amy defy society and admit their love? And if they do, will Colin be able to break his betrothal arrangement? Will Amy be able to reestablish the family business?

I looked forward to reading this book when I received my copy for review. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that takes place during the reign of King Charles II, or the Great Fire of London. The author’s passion for history is apparent from the opening chapters, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

Like any good romance, Amethyst is a character driven story. Right from the beginning I was sympathizing with Amy. She loves her work, but detests her fiancé, who has particular ideas about a wife’s duties to her husband. But she feels trapped, since her father has arranged this marriage to ensure Amy’s security and the family legacy. She is a woman whose future has been decided for her. And while the fire is devastating, it also gives her the opportunity to take charge of her own life.

It took me a little longer to warm up to Colin. He is so stubborn about marrying a title and money that he doesn’t even consider his feelings for Amy for a good portion of the novel. Then there is the matter of his betrothal to another woman. While Amy immediately calls off her engagement, Colin does not. Even while they are consummating their relationship, his engagement is still on. He has his reasons for being stubborn, but I felt he was short changing Amy, and frankly that she deserved better. Also, he has an obsession with practical jokes. The first one he plays on his unsuspecting family I found in poor taste, and rather cruel. Blessedly, Colin does redeem himself, but for a long while he was hard to like.

Colin’s high-spirited family are wonderful secondary characters that include an older brother, Jason, and two younger twins, Kendra and Ford. All of these characters play a significant role in getting Colin and Amy together. All are so well drawn and developed that I got a real sense of family.

Amethyst is Lauren Royal’s debut and the first book in her “jewel” trilogy. After meeting Colin’s family, I know I look forward to future books featuring this adventurous clan. Amethyst is a promising debut from in author who should find an appreciative audience among historical romance fans.

--Wendy Crutcher

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