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Impetuous by Candace Camp
(Mira, $5.99, R) ISBN 1-55166-450-X
****
Impetuous is my first Candace Camp read. Indeed, one of the nice things about reviewing is discovering new authors who really know how to tell a story. Camp certainly fits that description. This book has hidden treasure, a family feud, kidnapping, breaking and entering, and attempted murder. It also has a steamy romance between an admirable hero and heroine. Just about all the ingredients any reader could want.

Except one historical verisimilitude. After reading this book, I have no idea when the story takes place. The few fashion descriptions seem to suggest a Regency setting. However, certain other factors (mention of Florence Nightingale and of a revolver, for example) made me wonder if the book was meant to be set later in the 19th century. Since I was reading an uncorrected proof, it is possible that the anachronisms that gave me pause will disappear in the final version.

But what I really want to call attention to (and I admit that it is one of my particular pet peeves), is that the historical aspects of this historical romance are so ephemeral that this reader could remain in doubt as to the novel's temporal setting. This can be said about an increasing number of historical romances and I find this trend disturbing.

Yet, you will note that I am recommending Impetuous. It passed my "put down/pick up" test. When forced by circumstances (like the need to feed my family) to put the book down, I was a wee bit resentful and was anxious to pick it up at the next possible moment. I even read on through the soccer matches (although I did put it down to watch the shoot out between France and Italy.)

What a prologue! (Camp certainly knows how to get the reader's attention!) Sir Philip Neville has been invited for a midnight tryst with Joanna Moulton. But he enters the wrong room. He doesn't realize the mistake in the dark and is intrigued by the fact that the lady is feigning sleep, In fact, Cassandra Verrere is asleep and is having the most delightful dreams. When Philip realizes his mistake, he also realizes that he had made a lucky escape. Joanna had meant to entrap him into marriage. Cassandra is embarrassed by her cousin's behavior but behaves herself with admirable restraint.

Cassandra is perturbed at meeting Sir Philip this way. She had hoped to meet him less scandalously because she has a proposition for him. The Verreres and the Nevilles have been feuding since the 17th century when Margaret Verrere fled to America rather than marry a Neville. At issue was Margaret's dowry, which both families claimed but which had gone missing. Cassandra has discovered Margaret's diaries and believes that the dowry is still at Neville's estate. Her family needs the dowry to restore its sadly depleted fortunes. She needs Philip's help. But will a Neville work with a Verrere, even for a promised fortune?

Philip is intrigued by the young lady who reacted with such aplomb during their unusual first meeting. (He also is intrigued by what he felt was the promise of Cassandra's passion.) And so, he pursues the acquaintance. If that means involving himself in a search for treasure, so be it.

The treasure hunt is the main plot device, but there is a lot more. Cassandra has, at 27, given up thoughts of marriage and finds it hard to believe that the eminently eligible Sir Philip can be attracted to her. Philip has to sort out his own feelings about this unusual woman who is so unlike the vacuous debutantes he is familiar with. I have to say that the two seem well matched and while there are the inevitable misunderstandings, Camp doesn't draw them out unreasonably.

Impetuous is not especially original, but it is well done. I cared about the characters, remained in the dark about the mystery, and appreciated the love scenes. I have enjoyed Camp in her other personae because she tells a good story. Impetuous is a good story.

--Jean Mason


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