A Matter of Convenience

 
A Matter of Pride
by Gabriella Anderson
(Kensington Ballad, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6765-8
****
The second book in The Destiny Coin series is a delightful tale of two hardheaded people who are exactly right for each other, but take a very long road in finding it out. Eden Grant is touring Europe in 1820 with her best friend Lily and a dour chaperone. Before leaving Boston, her mother pressed an unusual coin into her hand and told her to hang onto it -- it would bring her luck. So far, this Grand Tour has been a series of minor misadventures, but now that the trio is in London, things are looking up. One evening Eden convinces Lily to skip a planned engagement and slip out with her to attend a play featuring the famous Edmund Kean. The girls manage to find the theater, but are separated in the crush.

Trevor St. John, Earl of Ryeburn, comes to the rescue, albeit rather reluctantly. Heís a bit unnerved by the tall blonde with the cool blue eyes who assesses him so frankly, then attempts to dismiss him after he helps her friend. Doing the gentlemanly thing, Trevor escorts the ladies to their townhouse and tries to forget the encounter, returning to the theater and finding an unusual coin on the pavement. His plans are thwarted when Eden turns up later that same evening at a party he attends.

Trevorís unwilling fascination is tempered by his determination to make amends for his fatherís rakehell reputation and marry a proper lady. Eden Grant is obviously a hoyden, albeit a lovely one. Definitely all wrong for him. Coming to a quick decision, Trevor places a wager with two acquaintances that heíll be engaged within a month to a respectable English lass. After all, there are dozens to choose from. So why does he keep returning to Eden like a moth to a flame?

Eden becomes a popular guest after the ton discovers she can sing beautifully. Now dubbed The American Nightingale, she is thrown together with Trevor at party after party, but he has made his opinion of her clear. So why does he keep coming around to see her? Suggesting picnics? Inviting her to a ball at his country estate? When scandal threatens and propriety-conscious Trevor offers marriage, Eden reluctantly agrees, and then the story really heats up.

The interplay between these two is delicious as Trevor fights a losing battle with his heart. And there are plenty of fun twists along the way. For example, Trevor has a habit of assuming the worst of Eden. They share a kiss, she responds, he immediately decides sheís an experienced tart. Eden, bless her little heart, is solidly on the side of the reader and lets him have it with both barrels, standing up to him until he admits heís wrong. His best friend gives him a Regency version of ďWhat is wrong with you, fool? Canít you see what a gem she is?Ē

The prose here is crisp and clean, with just enough description to add flavor without going overboard. The sexual tension builds to a hot flame, and the dialogue is intelligent. Gabriella Anderson has studied her craft.

There did seem to be one hole in the story. Trevor spends most of the book desperately clinging to propriety, and almost losing his perfect woman in the bargain. Weíre told that, after his fatherís death, Trevor spent years rebuilding the family finances, but just exactly what it was the father did to earn his dastardly reputation is never really explained. Since itís the foundation of Trevorís actions, it felt like readers are being asked to take an awful lot on faith. The book would have been stronger had Trevor given some examples of his fatherís evil deeds so we could empathize with him. As it was, his ďproper wife or no wifeĒ attitude was a bit perplexing. Heís an earl with money. He can thumb his nose at Society if he wants.

But all in all, A Matter of Pride is a captivating and intelligent romance that will no doubt gain Gabriella Anderson many new fans. Iím certainly looking forward to the last book in the trilogy!

--Cathy Sova


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