Anne's Perfect Husband

The Bride's Protector

Each Precious Hour

Heart of the Night

Her Baby, His Secret

Her Private Bodyguard

His Secret Duchess

Honor's Bride

Lady Sarah's Son

My Lady's Dare

Renegade Heart

The Stranger She Knew

Her Dearest Sin by Gayle Wilson
(Harl. Hist. #607, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-373-29207-4
Those of you who enjoy a well-told adventure with interesting characters and a vivid, almost cinematic writing style will find Her Dearest Sin a good read. Be warned though - the romance is a minor part of the story.

Sebastian Sinclair is an officer serving with Wellington in Spain in 1813. Attempting to snatch a rare bath in a river near their camp, he finds himself held at the point of his own sword by a young woman who wants his clean clothes. Whether or not Sebastian could be persuaded to part with them is never decided, as his battle of wills with the beautiful and well-spoken thief is interrupted by a group of very unfriendly-looking men. The woman is clearly known to their leader, and he does not look as though he means her well.

Although outnumbered, Sebastian is prepared to do his best to protect the woman but she gives herself up in exchange for Sebastianís life. Before departing, however, her captor lays open Sebastianís cheek with his sword.

A year later in Madrid, Sebastian finds his mystery lady at a ball and discovers that she is DoŮa Maria del Pilar Mendoza y Aranjķez and that the villain who disfigured him is Colonel JuliŠn Delgado, her guardian and soon-to-be fiancť. Tragically, while Sebastian tries to figure out how to free Pilar from this loathsome brute, his best friend is murdered by Delgadoís henchmen in a trap that was actually meant for Sebastian.

Unsure what role the girl might have played in his friendís death, but certain that she offers the best opportunity to revenge himself on Delgado both for his ruined face and his friendís death, Sebastian abducts Pilar. He discovers that the ruthless Delgado killed her father in order to gain access to Pilar as well as to the family titles and holdings. He also finds that Delgado controls her by brutally punishing her servants when he is displeased with her. Sebastian immediately offers Pilar his protection and that of his family.

Itís a complex, interesting, somewhat dark but always entertaining story thatís very difficult to summarize briefly - I suspect Iíve managed to reveal both too much and not enough. I enjoyed it and can recommend it wholeheartedly.

It does not, however, have much of a romance in it. Sebastian and Pilar are kept quite busy. Too busy, apparently, to reveal much about any feelings they might be developing except for some twinges of attraction. In fact, long into the book I found myself thinking that these two better start falling in love with each other soon because time was running out. I then literally turned the page to find Pilar thinking, quite without fanfare, that sheís fallen in love with Sebastian.

Now, certainly I was hoping they would fall in love. She is courageous and sensible as well as beautiful. He is gallant, intelligent and honorable. I knew they were physically aware of each other, although itís handled very subtly (not something Iím complaining about, mind you). They go through a lot together, and the way each handles their tribulations is virtually guaranteed to give them enormous appeal for one another.

But, as always when I read a book that says ďromanceĒ on the spine, I hoped to be privy to the developing awareness and their emotions and even struggles as they fell in love. Instead, I felt as though it was announced to me as a fait accompli and then all tidied up neatly at the end of the book as a sort of end-bracket to the story.

Ms. Wilson is a compelling storyteller, as she has proved over and over again, and a multi-talented writer of romance. Certainly Anneís Perfect Husband, which is the story of Sebastianís brother Ian, had an extremely satisfying romance. Selfishly, having enjoyed both her historical and contemporary romances in the past, Iím crossing my fingers that the limited attention give to the romantic relationship in this book simply reflects the demands of this particular story, and isnít the beginning of a change in direction for this author.

--Judi McKee

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