Belle's Beau

Cassandra's Deception

The Chester Charade

Tempting Sarah

Cupidís Choice by Gayle Buck
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20694-0
Did you think those saintly, uncomplaining, beautiful-but-she-doesnít-know-it, my-brother-should-get-all-the-attention-because-heís-male, doormat heroines had died with Barbara Cartland? No such luck. Miss Guineveve Holland has picked up that banner and is suffering nobly in Cupidís Choice.

Reading this, I suffered, too.

Guineveve is the twin sister of Lord Percival Holybrooke (as earl he should be Percival Holland, Lord Holybrooke). Their selfish mother cossets Percy and ignores her insignificant daughter. In defense, Guin is deeply attached to her brother.

The three, along with the twinsí uncle, have come to London so that Percy can assume his rightful role in society. Percy, the son of a younger son, has inherited the title and estate from his grandfather who disinherited his first-born. (Informed readers will know this is impossible under the British system.) In addition, Mrs. Holland intends to marry off Guin. Guin, however, is so browbeaten by her mother that she has no skills in social settings and is dismissed as a nonentity. Her hopes that she will have Percyís support are futile as he quickly makes friends and enters enthusiastically into the manly pursuits of his class.

At a ball, Sir Frederick Hawkesworth, a diplomat with a distinguished career, is introduced to Mrs. Holland and her two children. He is struck by the cruelty of the mother to her daughter and out of sympathy asks Guin to dance. Away from her mother, Guinís beauty and sweet manner become more apparent. He decides that with the assistance of two society doyennes he will help bring Guin into fashion.

Mrs. Holland is dazzled by her sonís succeeding to the earldom, and she attributes all their acquaintances with the desire to associate with a man of his lofty status. Her goals for her daughter are entirely based on acquiring a title and vast estate. She encourages Lord Holloway, a man whose reputation is not the best, in his interest in Guin.

Will there be happiness in Guinís future?

Although this review is posted in the Regency Romance category, thatís somewhat misleading because Cupidís Choice lacks romance. A romance assumes the hero and heroine are more than friendly acquaintances, and thereís not much more than that between Sir Frederick and Guin. Theyíre rarely even together in the same scenes. Heís a nice enough guy whoís recently decided he needs to get married and father an heir and sheís a sweet enough young innocent who deserves better than sheís receiving, but thatís not romance.

What this is is a tale of how a downtrodden mouse comes to stand up for herself. Guinís success isnít in snagging an eligible spouse but rather in finally defying her mother and taking charge of her own future.

The greater part of the book is one episode after another where Mrs. Holland verbally abuses her daughter. We know how terrible she is and how downtrodden Guin is because weíre shown, weíre told, repeat and repeat. After a while, it becomes tedious. Okay, we get the picture: sheís a rotten mother and a selfish, materialistic witch (or something like that). Can we get on with the romance part, please? But, alas, thatís the whole book.

At his first appearance, Sir Frederick Hawkesworth is reminiscing about a romance between a Russian prince and an Irish girl. That story can be found in the authorís 1997 regency, A Magnificent Match, but itís not necessary to have read it before reading Cupidís Choice.

On a technical note, Cupidís Choice is not an easy book to read quickly. This small segment of London society is overpopulated with characters whose name begins with H. Thereís Miss Holland, Mrs. Holland, Lord Holybrooke, Lord Holloway, and thatís not counting Sir Frederick Hawkesworth and Mr. Howard Lloyd. Iím not alone in my confusion because at one point a character addresses Miss Holland as Mrs. Holland. A little editing would have not been amiss. Thank heavens for Lady Smythe and Colonel Caldar.

With so little romance and so much maternal emotional abuse, the title Cupidís Choice is a curious pick. What did Cupid choose? If youíre a reader looking for a touching Regency romance, you could make a better choice.

--Lesley Dunlap

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