Mr. Trelawney’s Proposal by Mary Brendan
(Harlequin Regency, $4.50, G) ISBN 0-373-51136-1
***
Mr. Trelawney’s Proposal came very close to being a four heart read. Unfortunately, problems with the heroine’s behavior at the end of the book detracted markedly from my enjoyment of the story. I realize that Rebecca Nash is meant to be a sheltered innocent, but there is always a fine line between innocence and foolishness. Rebecca stepped over the line.

Rebecca Nash is a young woman of twenty-five who lives in a small cottage on Lord Ramsden’s estate. She earns her living by teaching and takes in one or two borders as well as instructing local girls. As the story begins, she has stopped to pick up her new border, Lucy. Lucy’s unpleasant step-father, Rupert Mayhew is much struck by the schoolteacher’s beauty. Given the reputation of Lord “Old Ram” Ramsden, Mayhew wonders what else Rebecca does to pay the rent.

On the way home, Rebecca and Lucy encounter two handsome gentlemen on the Ramsden estate. A little bit later, Rebecca discovers that one of these fellows, Luke Trelawney, is the new Lord Ramsden, his predecessor having died suddenly. Like Mayhew before him, Luke assumes that there was more to the relationship between the “Old Ram” and his lovely tenant. He is much struck by her incredible beauty and decides to offer her the opportunity to continue her “arrangement.”

The unsophisticated miss, hearing Luke’s promise to support her and take care of her, assumes he is proposing marriage. Later, she learns the truth and heatedly rejects his offer. There was indeed something more to her relationship with the previous Lord Ramsden; she was his niece. Rebecca was the daughter of a not very successful merchant. Still, on his death six years earlier, he had provided £5000 for his daughter’s dowry. Unfortunately, he had left the money in the care of Rebecca’s improvident brother Simon and Simon - with the money - had disappeared. Rebecca has been looking for Simon ever since.

Luke is taken aback when he realizes that Rebecca is respectable, but he recovers quickly. He realizes that she is the perfect woman for him and so he turns his proposition into a proposal. Rebecca does not quite know what to do. After all, this man is handsome, rich and a lord to boot. Moreover, when he kisses her, she tingles all over. But she really doesn’t know him. Still, another passionate embrace, and Rebecca finds herself agreeing to wed.

The plot is complicated by Rebecca’s determination to find her brother, which brings her into the clutches of a nasty smuggler and requires Luke’s rescue.

As to the romance, I suppose that if one likes the idea of “love at first sight,” then Luke’s and Rebecca’s relationship will work. Luke is a traditional dashing hero, caught up short by a beautiful, virtuous and sweet woman. Rebecca is more problematic; she does foolish things and her doubts about Luke seem misplaced and overdone. Things mostly happen to Rebecca and I prefer my heroines with a bit of spunk.

When all is said and done, Mr. Trelawney’s Proposal lacks that certain something that leads me to recommend a book. Yet it has enough good points to make it acceptable to fans of the Regency romance.

--Jean Mason


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