Thief of Hearts by Kate Silver
(Zebra, $5.99, R) 0-8217-7458-1
**
The good news about Thief of Hearts is the heroine.  From the streets, she has lived as a boy for many years.  She is cautious and cynical, but does have a sense of right and wrong.  There is never any indication that she is related to an aristocrat.  The bad news is the hero.  He falls madly in love with one of the mistresses of King Louis XIV.  He naively thinks she will be his forever love and is surprised when she rejects him.  I could say it is because he is only twenty-three, but the heroine is younger and has much more sense.

Miriame Dardagny knows she needs new boots before winter begins in earnest.  She has lived as a boy for several years and survives by stealing.  On a cold Paris night, she sets out to steal a pair.  From an alley, she witnesses a group of men attack a young man on horseback.  Miriame recognizes the voice of one of the men because it is the same man who killed her sister.  She decides to take the dead man's boots and any valuables, but discovers that he is still alive.  Miriame finds help for him, but he is so injured that everyone believes he will die, so she steals his clothes, boots, money, and a letter of introduction to join the Musketeers of the King's Guard.  She becomes Jean-Paul Metin.

Jean-Paul recovers and makes his way to the Musketeers where he is allowed to join as well.  He discovers the imposter, but has no proof that this person is not also a Jean-Paul Metin.  He is furious when he does discover that the imposter visited Francine, the mistress, on an invitation meant for him.  Francine becomes more interested in the imposter and publicly dismisses Jean-Paul, humiliating him.

Miriame, as Jean-Paul, toys with the real Jean-Paul, but comes to like him.  She also discovers two other women posing as male Musketeers.  They become friends and when one marries, she convinces Miriame to wear a dress to the wedding.  Jean-Paul sees her outside of the church and can't figure out how he knows her.  He is very attracted to her and convinces her to meet him again.  Miriame likes him as well, but can't figure out what to do about it. 

In some ways, the story is very intriguing.  The glimpses into the court of the Sun King, particularly the sly Francine, and the Musketeers organization kept me interested.  Some parts left me puzzled.  I needed more background information to understand why and how the other two women were Musketeers.  If felt like they were only in the story to convince Miriame to wear a dress so Jean-Paul could see her as a woman.   

Jean-Paul just did not work.  First, he is deeply in love with Francine, then she rejects him and he is deeply distraught.  He sees Miriame as a girl, and very quickly begins to fall in love with her.  I would probably recommend that Miriame watch her step with him.

The setting in 17th century France is a nice change and Miriame is a worthy heroine.  It is too bad that Jean-Paul is not her match.

--B. Kathy Leitle


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