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The Willful Wife

The Headstrong Heart
by Alana Clayton
(Zebra. $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6183-8
The Headstrong Heart is a Regency with touches of the supernatural, and may well appeal to readers looking for something out of the ordinary. Elizabeth Leighton awakens from a four-month coma to find her best friend Helen is dead, apparently by the hand of a man Elizabeth has admired for years.

Logan Greeley, Earl of Roarke, was a former suitor of Helen's and a friend to Elizabeth. Now he is suspected of murdering her in a fit of jealous rage. Elizabeth was the last to see them, and the shock of viewing Helen dead with a rose clasped to her bosom and Roarke's half-naked form spread over her in a drunken stupor contributed to her comatose state.

Elizabeth doesn't believe Roarke killed Helen, and she is determined to prove it. She has one weapon at her disposal – a long-disused Second Sight that allows her to sketch things before they happen. This family talent was present in her late mother, and after her mother's death, Elizabeth's father forbade her to sketch at all. With practice, perhaps this talent will lead her to the murderer.

Roarke is concerned for Elizabeth's safety and fears she'll rush in where fools fear to tread. In an attempt to keep her under his watchful eye, he joins forces with her to solve the mystery – and finds himself drawn to this quiet beauty who is the antithesis of Helen.

The mystery deepens when Elizabeth begins drawing portraits of Helen that don't quite look like Helen. Was she really who she seemed to be?

I liked some of the realistic touches the author used in this story. For example, Elizabeth awakens from her coma and finds her hair is falling out. Short curls soon take the place of her former long locks. Roarke doesn't seem to mind at all. In fact, he's a sturdy, no-nonsense sort of fellow, one who soon realizes that his former infatuation with the lovely Helen had no more depth than a puddle, whereas Elizabeth is a very deep pool, indeed. Elizabeth and her Second Sight seem somewhat fatuous, sort of a Regency version of Nancy Drew at times, but overall she's not hard to take.

There were a few plot elements that were inserted so hastily that I almost missed them. For instance, Helen dropped Roarke's suit to marry another man. Elizabeth's father points out that Helen was, after all, his wife… huh? It took three re-readings to figure out that Helen had married Elizabeth's father, a point that has bearing on the story. And at that, I almost missed it.

But for a Regency with a twist, readers will find that The Headstrong Heart delivers something rather unique. If you enjoy this story, you may want to check out Alana Clayton's other Regencies featuring heroines with visionary powers.

--Cathy Sova

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