Belle of the Ball

Lady Delafont's Dilemma

Lady May's Folly

Lord St. Claire's Angel

Miss Truelove Beckons

A Rake's Redemption

A Matchmakerís Christmas
by Donna Simpson
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7289-9
I feel really strange reviewing a Christmas book at the end of September, but if publishers insist on continuing to be so unseasonable, I guess we reviewers will have to try to put ourselves into the holiday mode three months too soon. But why should I be surprised? The local department stores already have their Christmas decorations up! At least Donna Simpsonís Yuletide romance is a lot of fun.

The matchmaker of the title is Elizabeth, Comtesse Bournard. As she reaches her eightieth year and sees her end approaching, Lady Bournard realizes that she has been selfishly concerned only with her own feelings since her beloved husband died twenty years earlier. Inparticular, she is worried about the happiness of the three people who mean the most to her: her companion, Beatrice Copeland; her godson, Sir David Chappell; and the Reverend Mark Rowland, who spent a summer with her many years earlier after his parents died.

Lady Bournard decides to do some matchmaking in her old age by inviting David and Mark to Chateau Bournard for Christmas and including Miss Verity Allen whom she believes a suitable bride for the latter. She has concluded that Beatrice and David will make a perfect couple. Her guestlist is augmented when Lady Silvia Hampton, who is sent by her parents to rusticate in the wilds of Yorkshire because she will not marry the man of their choice. The numbers are further increased when Lord Vaughn seeks refuge in a snowstorm and decides to stay. He is looking for a bride and Lady Silvia seems like a perfect choice.

Lady Bournard may be able to throw people together, but she canít make them feel the way she wants them to. For herself, Beatrice is appalled at her employerís machinations. Twenty years earlier, when she was a heedless girl of nineteen, she had known Sir David and had become, justly she believes, the object of his opprobrium. She is convinced that once he sees her, he will recall his disgust. Fortunately, Sir David does not recognize her.

Miss Verity Allen is obviously a most unsuitable bride for a staid clergyman like David. Born in Canada and sent to England to get some polish, she is unhappy with the strictures of society. She much prefers outdoor sports and horses to boring drawing room babble. Lady Silvia, on the other hand, is soon intrigued by the gentle Mark and he is likewise falling in love with this sweet and intelligent young lady. Yet a poor vicar is no match for the daughter of an earl. For his part,Lord Vaughn tries to court Lady Silvia, but finds himself strangely drawn to the hoydenish Verity.

This is clearly an ensemble romance and Simpson succeeds in developing all three relationships. The central romance is between Beatrice and David and a lovely one it is. This is a mature romance; Beatrice is approaching forty and David is forty-seven. Twenty years earlier, David had lost his heedless wife Melanie and he has never remarried. He is immensely attracted to the lovely, calm and caring Beatrice and doesnít understand why she tries to remain so remote. The author gradually uncovers the secret that has haunted Beatriceís life, and it is almost as grave a secret as she believes. She will have to forgive herself just as David forgives her.

The other two romances are very different. Verity and Vaughn spar their way to love. David and Sylvia face almost insuperable barriers to their happily ever after. Lady Bournardís matchmaking schemes may not all work out as she planned, but in the end she succeeds in making everybody happy.

If I had to read a Christmas romance in September, Iím glad it was this one. So if you want not one but three sweet romances to gladden your holiday season, buy A Christmas Matchmaker now and read it one snowy day in December. It will help make your Christmas just a bit merrier.

--Jean Mason

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