Scoundrel by Debra Deir
(Leisure, $5.50, R) ISBN 0-8439-3894-
Set aside the rather far-fetched mid-section of this book and what's left is a sensual jewel. The bold beginning of this book of love is the celebration of marriage between Lady Emily Maitland and the irresistible Major Blake. However, there is no Major Blake - he is the Lady's creation, concocted (with her grandmother) to put an end to her parents' vow that her younger sisters will not be allowed their seasons until she is wed.

Not that Emily is your typical spinster. No, she is beautiful, tempestuous, and dreamy, unwilling to trust any man after her heart was broken by a fortune-hunter. Now the handsome and bold lover from her dreams has appeared, introducing himself as her husband and waltzing his way into her life and her bed.

I realize what I have just described sounds rather far-fetched as well. But this is marvelous fiction and the Remington Steele-like scenario works wonderfully. While she maneuvers to unmask this scoundrel, he is working to unmask a traitor. They succeed in unmasking each other and falling into a love so deep it could destroy them both.

In nearly every scene where Emily and her Major are together, their chemistry is so strong that sparks literally fly off the pages. This couple is glorious and their growing devotion is delightful to watch. The author has written particularly passionate love scenes that might read as cornball in the hands of a less-talented author. Her prose during these scenes is almost poetic.

But Major Blake's work could destroy Emily's family, and the plot veers off onto silly tangents, including amnesia, faked death, and disguises easily seen through. After Emily learns the truth about her Major, she refuses to accept anything he says, though his love is true and dear.

Emily's wonderful grandmother acts as catalyst throughout the story, and brings the two lovers together in the end. Though the reader is made to suffer a little in anticipation of their reunion (Emily's mind is not changed overnight), it is a genuine pleasure to watch them reunite.

This book is nearly 400 pages in length. Had the author written a shorter book and removed the mid-section, the plot would not have suffered and the book would have been improved. Still, I recommend this book wholeheartedly because it is truly a book about lovers and love.

--Laurie Likes Books

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