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Lady Meg's Gamble

 
Guarding an Angel
by Martha Schroeder
(Fawcett, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-449-00342-6
****
We recently had a round robin discussions among TRR contributors about the impact of anachronisms and errors on rating a book. And the consensus seemed to be that if a book keeps our interest, we can readily let little things pass. It is only when the story and characters aren't compelling that we obsess about such things as whether or not there were cardinals in England or the proper courtesy titles for sons of earls.

Well, my response to Guarding an Angel proves this point. There are a few boo-boos in the details of Martha Schroeder's second Regency, but because I liked the story and the characters, I the original history scold said, so what!

Lady Amelia is the only daughter and only child of the recently deceased Duke of Doncaster. She is wealthy, lovely, compassionate, charitable, and, at 24, still unwed. As the story opens, her dear friend, Captain Gideon Falconer, is expressing his concern about the intentions of her cousin, Eustace. The new Duke of Doncaster inherited the title and the entailed estates, but Amelia inherited the family fortune. It seems certain that the slimy Eustace will try to solve his pressing financial problems by marrying Amelia by fair means or foul.

Gideon tall, handsome, dashing, and brave is an anomaly in Regency England. As the former Duke's protege, he was educated at Eton and has a commission in a fine cavalry regiment. But everyone knows that Amelia rescued Gideon from the streets of London when he was about ten years old. He was a gypsy brat, sold to a chimney sweep. His social position is ambiguous at best.

Amelia and Gideon grew up together as best of friends. And now, Gideon feels compelled to protect her from her cousin and from all the other fortune hunters who might threaten her. He owes it to his benefactor. Of course, Gideon loves his Amy; but he clearly recognizes his unsuitability as a prospective husband. A duke's daughter cannot marry a nameless foundling, however much he has made of himself.

Amelia has no plans to marry anyone. She intends to devote her life to the charitable works that she shared with her father. If she has an unspoken tendre towards Gideon, she is unsure how he feels about her. It well could be that he simply loves her as a sister.

Of course, Eustace becomes more and more desperate, especially after Amelia roundly rejects his proposal. Pressured by his ruthless creditors, he agrees to a plan to abduct his cousin. And then, of course, Gideon must ride to her rescue. When both of them are in danger, their true feelings come to the surface. But there is still that problem of their differences in birth and fortune.

OK, this is a romance and through a series of somewhat improbable coincidences, this hurdle is overcome. And, once again, because I was enjoying myself so much, I overlooked a plot device that might otherwise have had me grumbling.

Schroeder won me over with her characters. Amelia is the kind of heroine I enjoy. She is intelligent and capable and knows her own mind. Gideon is a man whose honor wars with his honorable love. The villains are appropriately villainous and the secondary romance is very pleasant as well. And (although I can't tell you why) the denouement was very heartwarming indeed.

Martha Schroeder is a most promising new Regency author. What a pity that her publisher is dropping its Regency line. I only hope that another publisher picks up her and the other Fawcett authors. I hope Guarding an Angel is not the last Schroeder Regency.

(An aside. Obviously Fawcett's decision to drop the Regency line has had an impact on its quality control. The back blurb sets a new record for inaccuracy. Not only is the plot line spurious, but the blurb doesn't even get the names of the hero and heroine right!)

--Jean Mason


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