,A HREF = "camp-hard.html">Hard-Hearted Texan

Impetuous

Promise Me Tomorrow

Secrets of the Heart

A Stolen Heart

Swept Away

 
Beyond Compare by Candace Camp
(MIRA, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7783-2030-8
****
Beyond Compare, the sequel to Mesmerized, is set in 1870’s England and opens with Kyria, daughter of the Duke of Moreland, making final preparations for her sister Olivia’s wedding. Somehow Kyria’s twin brothers’ parrot gets loose and escapes from the house into the high branches of a tree in the yard. Kyria gathers her skirts between her legs and attempts to climb the tree to rescue the beloved parrot.

Just as Kyria nears the parrot, the branch she sits on breaks under her weight and she’s left hanging. Rafe, an American business partner of the bridegroom, who has come to England to attend the wedding, rushes to her aid atop a large horse. Kyria lets go of the branch and Rafe catches her in his arms. Their mutual romantic attraction begins almost immediately.

But, their attraction is overshadowed by an adventure that begins that evening. The excitement starts when Rafe takes a break from the wedding festivities and goes outside to smoke a cigar. He walks around to the front of the manor and sees a man walking up the front steps. Just as Rafe begins to think the stranger odd, an attacker approaches the stranger and stabs him. Rafe runs to help the stranger and scares the attacker away. The stranger is brought into the house and before he dies, utters a few words. Those who witnessed the man’s last words agree that he meant for a parcel on his person to be delivered to Kyria.

The parcel turns out to be a small ornately carved box with a very large uncut black diamond adorning one end. Adventures ensue as Rafe, Kyria and many of the household members try to figure out the significance of the box, why it was brought to Kyria and who would kill a man for it. All the while, a romance blooms between Kyria and Rafe.

Beyond Compare has no dull moments anywhere. And although there is quite a lengthy cast of characters, it is very easy to get to know each of them and keep track of who is who during the story. This was important because it allows the reader to spend time picking up clues to guess who the bad guys are and why they want the box so badly.

It was kind of uncanny how each of my questions about the mystery was met with the same question being discussed among the characters in the story. Any time I started to feel uneasy about something someone suggested, another character questioned them about it at almost the same time. The reader isn’t asked to suspend logic or reason to make it through the story.

In the beginning, it is difficult to figure out the time period in the story. Camp never comes out and states the year, but about a third of the way in Rafe makes mention of having fought in the Civil War. The story takes place a few years after this.

Kyria ends up doing a lot of dangerous things that I expected the male household members would disapprove of more than they did. In 1870s England it would be surprising for an unwed woman to go gallivanting off into the city in search of kidnappers. Rafe accompanies her in almost every situation, giving them time together so it was understandable in the context of the story. Surprisingly, Kyria’s father, the Duke, never spoke up about her behavior being unladylike in the eyes of “society” - especially with the two of them unescorted on several occasions.

On the other hand, it was quite refreshing to find the entire household - servants sometimes included - getting involved in the mystery. During the family discussions, there are no arguments among the household - just productive debate. Everyone who resides in the manor is respectful and accepting of the other residents - even the gutsy and extremely independent heroine.

Overall, Beyond Compare is highly recommended for anyone who loves a fast paced adventure, mixed with suspense and a bit of steamy romance.

--Tracy Merritt


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