Robertís Lady by Nicole Byrd
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12853-8
****
Robertís Lady is a fast-paced Regency historical of a man who returns from the war and finds his fiancť married to someone else, his family threatened by his greedy cousin, and the possibility of his own arrest for treason.

Lord Robert Manning spent several years in a French prison as a prisoner of war. The only thing that got him through those days was the thought of his childhood sweetheart and fiancť, Eleanor. He arrives in England to find that his family had been told he was dead and that Eleanorís family had encouraged her to marry and put the past behind her. She has a new baby when Robert appears.

Roberts also discovers that his father is very ill and that his greedy cousin Cavenish, is just waiting for the Earl to die so that he can take over the estate. Since Robertís older brother, William, had died in an accident just before Robert was taken prisoner, Robert is now the heir.

Robert is in a terrible bind. He had worked as a double agent for England against France during the war, but only a few people knew that. There is a letter that could surface that would make it look like he had been a spy for France. Since his commander was killed at Waterloo, he realizes that he may not be able to prove that he was working for England. He has a responsibility to his family to quickly produce an heir so that if he is sent to the gallows, Cavendish will not have control over his mother and sisters. With Eleanor married, he realizes he must marry as a business arrangement.

Eleanorís sister, Katryn, has loved Robert for years. When he expresses his need for a quick marriage and heir, without telling her to details of the treason threat, she offers to marry him. She is sure that she can make him see her as a grown-up and someone to love. He agrees to marry her, but regrets putting someone he cares about in a loveless marriage. Very soon after their marriage, they attend a ball and cousin Cavendish brings in the guard, brandishes the dreaded letter, and tries to arrest Robert. With Kathrynís help, the two of them make a daring escape and head off to Kent to find a woman who might be able to prove Robertís innocence.

Katryn and Robert are the main characters but interestingly enough, Eleanor and her husband, Lord Whitmund, also play integral parts in the story. The author shows Eleanorís ambivalence about her marriage now that Robert is back. She helps Robert and Katryn escape, against her husbandís wishes. She sets out to find the mysterious woman on her own. Whitmund realizes that he could lose his wife to Robert and sets out after her as well. We get to see the confused feelings of all four and want all of them to find happiness.

Katryn and her sister are very different. Eleanor is usually very proper and perfect while Kathryn says what she thinks and isnít afraid to take chances. As she and Robert travel through the countryside, he begins to see her as a unique person with a fire that attracts him. Although it takes him far too long, he finally sees how well they suit each other.

Several touches added to the atmosphere of the story. The description of Robertís arrival at the dock in England was very vivid and gave the feel of how much he had missed home. When Robert forgets his manners and greedily devours his favorite dish at a proper dinner table, then remembers where he is, you see the desperation that he faced and the struggle he still has.

Fully developed characters and a story set at a fast clip make Robertís Lady an enjoyable read.

--B. Kathy Leitle


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