His Last Best Hope

On a Long Ago Night

The Price of Innocence

The Price of Passion

Too Wicked to Marry

 
Captured Innocence by Susan Sizemore
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-008289-5
****
Susan Sizemore is having a grand time with the MacLeods, her family of 19th century spies and secret agents. Readers will have a grand time as well, as long as they suspend their disbelief, enter into the fantasy and do not take the plot too seriously. Captured Innocence provided this reader with several hours of pure fun. Sometimes this is all we need.

Kit Fox MacLeod was adopted by the family when he was caught burglarizing their home as a small child. His already polished skills at breaking and entering have been honed over time and have proven very useful. He has grown up into a charming rogue whose success with the ladies is legendary as well as an effective secret agent. Lady Lily Bancroft has equally unusual antecedents. She is the daughter of Maxim IV, the deposed king of Bororavia, a small kingdom in the Baltic region. Maxim had been given sanctuary in England and Lily had been raised as the daughter of a Yorkshire squire rather than a princess.

Kit and Lily meet at a ball in the Bororavian embassy in London one night in 1880. Kit daringly asks the lovely Princess Lily to waltz and this brief encounter proves to be momentous for both parties.

Lily is an unwilling princess; several weeks earlier, thugs had arrived at her Yorkshire home and kidnapped both her and her mother. The abduction was the work of her unpleasant cousin, the usurper, King Gregory. The king needs an heir and he needs to placate his unhappy nobles. Marrying his cousin, who has a legitimate claim to the throne, will kill two birds with one stone. Never mind that the last thing Lily wants is to marry Gregory or be queen. Unless she agrees, her beloved mother will be murdered.

The British government has an interest in Bororavia and its king. Not only do they want trade concessions, but rumor has it that Gregory is consorting with anarchists. Kit is assigned to break into the embassy and discover what the king is up to.

That first waltz and subsequent encounters serve to first ignite and then fan a flame between the two. Lily realizes that Kit has his own agenda, but wonders whether she can allow him to seduce her so that her cousin will no longer wish to marry her. Kit knows that his feelings for Lily run deeper than mere attraction, but he also knows that a man with his background cannot aspire to marry a princess.

Thus the fun begins; and it is fun! There are plots and counterplots, abductions and rescues and lots of sexual tension between the hero and heroine. There is international intrigue and national interest. There is conflict between duty and desire.

The cast of secondary characters keeps things moving. Gregoryís long time mistress is on the scene to threaten the heroine. The Bororavian courtiers have their own agendas. The unusual MacLeod daughters have their roles to play as do the other members of the family.

So plunge in and enjoy yourself. Itís fun to watch the naive Lily gradually begin to understand the devious nature of power politics and to assert herself. Itís fun to watch Kit find himself caught by loveís snares. And if the way the plot resolves itself is over the top and improbable, well the whole story is unlikely. But Sizemore isnít aiming for verisimilitude; sheís aiming for entertainment. And she certainly succeeds.

--Jean Mason


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