His Heartís Delight by Mary Blayney
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7180-9
**
His Heartís Delight opens with an intriguing setup. Morgan Braedon, second son of a marquis, is ordered by his father to find a wife by the end of the Season or face being disinherited. Morganís elder brother, James, does not wish to marry and the family line must be assured. Morgan, who is attempting to restore a small estate left to him by his late mother, is earning the money for the estate's improvements mainly at the faro tables of the ton. He must keep his father pacified long enough to make the estate self-sufficient. Furious, Morgan agrees to his fatherís terms and departs for London and the Season, though not without a plan up his sleeve.

Christiana Whitlow is enjoying a Season in London with her sister, Joanna. The Whitlow family hopes that Joanna will make a good match, and Mama is considerably perturbed when itís Christiana who attracts the attention of eligible Lord Morgan. Christy has other ideas. She is almost affianced to a neighbor, Richard, who recently left for a commission in the army. With her head full of Richard, the last thing Christy wants is to be pursued by a suitor.

Morgan and Christy come to an agreement. He will pretend to court her, to satisfy his father and brother. She will allow him to squire her around. At the end of the Season, she will break it off. His father can hardly blame him if his intended backs out, can he? Then Christy will be free to return to the country and await Richardís return.

A tidy, if not altogether original setup. Unfortunately, thatís about all there is to the plot. Morgan and Christy meet at a party. Christy goes home and talks it over with Joanna. They meet at a masquerade. Christy goes home and talks it over with Joanna. They meet at a soiree. Christy goes home andÖ well, you get the picture. Because so many of these scenes were simply repeats of previous ones, the book draaaaggggged. A complaint reviewers sometimes have is that a book can have too much going on; in this case, there wasnít enough. The ďgetting to know youĒ conversations between Christy and Morgan were tedious rather than interesting, and much of what is revealed about Morgan has to come from secondary characters, so there isnít much sense of these two truly opening up to one another.

The older brother shows up in Town, and there are references to Morgan being somewhat tortured over the death of his younger sister, but these arenít fully developed (indeed, after a dark prologue featuring the grieving Morgan, the sisterís death hardly seems to factor in at all).

Christiana came across as too young in some ways to hold this readerís interest. Her infatuation with Richard seems to be based on little more than a few conversations and meaningful looks, and when the inevitable happens and Morgan finds heís truly fallen for her, she acts like a hysterical teenager. She does have a sunny, optimistic personality. It was hard going in places watching her grow up, though.

Morgan was an interesting hero. His determination to safeguard the one piece of his mother he has left was intriguing, and his willingness to use his knowledge of cards to attain it added to his charm.

His Heartís Delight ultimately lacked the sparkle of a good Regency. I canít recommend it, but if you like a romance based on an intentional subterfuge, you may find it more entertaining.

--Cathy Sova


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