Fortune's Fancy by Anne Avery
(Topaz, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-40740-7
****
From watermelons to watered stock. Last year's Summer Fancy was a delightfully sweet slice of Americana. Anne Avery's new book has a very different hero and heroine, a very different plot, but it is equally tasty and enjoyable.

Mary Allegra Constanza Donatto is my kind of heroine. By that I mean she is intelligent, perceptive, a bit daring, as well as being drop dead gorgeous. She arrives at the luxurious new Hotel Colorado in 1894 set on playing out her late and well-loved father's projected con. Her target is Geoffrey Archer, a well-heeled business man who has made his fortune by swindling others.

Mary's entrance is, as she planned, spectacular; her apparent title of Contessa creates a fine stir among the nouveau riche. Even more notable is the fact that she shot and captured a bumbling train robber on the trip to the hotel. She has certainly caught everyone's attention.

Among those who find the new arrival intriguing is Marcus Aurelius Thorne, a guest (and shareholder) of the Hotel Colorado. Thorne had made his fortune in the silver mines and added to it by shrewd investments. He, too, is interested in Geoffrey Archer; he has, in fact, embarked on a systematic effort to destroy Archer because of his dishonesty. Marcus has been so successful that Archer is nearly at the end of his resources. His only hope seems to be to woo and win the lovely young heiress, Arabella Grolier.

But then, the lovely and apparently wealthy Contessa (just call me Miss Donatto) arrives and seems interested in his handsome and charming persona. Perhaps she will be the means by which he can reestablish himself financially.

> Mary is not really anxious to pursue her father's hobby of bilking the bilkers. But his sudden death had left her in financial deep water and she is particularly worried about taking care of her two old and loyal servants, Emmalina and Vito. She attempts to reel in her prey, while at the same time fighting her growing attraction to the interfering, insufferable, but incredibly interesting Marcus.

Marcus, for all his financial success, maintains his rough edges (despite the efforts of his dedicated English valet to polish him up.) He misses the excitement of the silver rush and the challenges it posed. He has avoided marriage because it would be one more step on the path to civilized behavior. But when he meets Mary, when he kisses Mary, when he spars with Mary well, suddenly matrimony takes on a whole new meaning. Mary, however, feels that her deceit and dishonesty have made her an unsuitable bride for a respectable man, although she realizes that Marcus is the man she has been waiting for.

Avery sets her romance against the backdrop of the Hotel Colorado and its denizens. Just as she recreated the ambience of a small Colorado agricultural town in Summer Fancy, so here she recreates the lifestyle of the idle rich at play. She mixes in a jailbreak, a romance between the heiress and the erstwhile train robber, and an easy to dislike villain. There is romance, adventure, humor and a bit of suspense.

Fortune's Fancy is an eminently satisfactory Americana romance and Anne Avery is fast becoming one of our best authors of this particular kind of novel. The plot and characters are very different from those in her last book but the enjoyment is the same.

--Jean Mason


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