A Bride for Lord Beaumont by Marcy Stewart
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6582-5
The premise of Marcy Stewartís new Regency sounds promising: a young woman, newly betrothed, decides that her best friend needs a bride and therefore goes about trying to find him one. I suppose part of my disappointment in this novel is the result of misplaced expectations; I was expecting something lighthearted and amusing. Instead, the story centers on the disastrous personal costs that can occur when young people are forced to marry for their familiesí advantage.

Roslyn Andrews and Miles, Lord Beaumont, grew up as neighbors and best friends. When she was seventeen and he was twenty-one, Roslyn believed that the two were on the brink of moving beyond friendship to love. But suddenly, Miles seemed to change. Indeed, the bickering that had been so much a part of their youthful relationship seemed to grow more intense. Convinced that Miles is uninterested her as a potential wife, Roslyn accepts the suit of a wealthy local landowner, Jonathan Leffew. Her proposed marriage will allow her father to make much needed improvements to the family estate.

At the ball celebrating both Roslynís twenty-first birthday and her betrothal, Milesí conversation causes Roslyn to wonder if she had been mistaken in her evaluation of his real feelings. She momentarily considers not announcing her engagement. But Jonathan is such a nice man and the marriage will be so advantageous. Roslyn decides that, for her peace of mind and her friendís well being, the best thing to do is find him a wife.

Miles leaves the ball early, unable to watch the woman he loves become betrothed to another. Although this fact is not uncovered until well into the book, the back blurb tells us that he too is being forced into an unwanted marriage by financial considerations.

In pursuit of her purpose, Roslyn invites four of her unmarried school friends to visit. One of them, gentle Esther Cummings, arrives in a most unusual manner -- riding astride dressed as a boy. It turns out that Esther is being compelled by her family to marry a rich suitor who apparently has violent tendencies. Estherís sweetness captures the attention of the men at the houseparty, especially Jonathanís.

The other three visitors, Victoria, Harriet and Colleen, create their own kind of complications. Victoria moves in to take charge of the household; Colleenís laugh and actions grate; and Harriet is into behavioral experiments with cats and with people. I assume that the latterís activities are meant to add a bit of humor to the book, but this didnít quite work for me.

The resolution of all of the assorted problems requires all sorts of contrivances and complexities that did strain my credulity.

I might have enjoyed A Bride for Lord Beaumont more had I liked the hero and heroine more. Roslyn came across to me as uninteresting and immature. Miles was not a particularly compelling creation. I felt that I was being told of their love more than being shown how they felt about each other.

Whether my disappointment with A Bride for Lord Beaumont results from my original expectations or whether the writing and characterizations simply didnít work for me is not completely clear. But I found this to be merely an acceptable Regency romance.

--Jean Mason

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