An Unlikely Father

Christmas Kittens

Lady Miranda's Masquerade

The Spy's Bride

Sweet Temptations

The Wedding Charm by Lynn Collum
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6804-2
I was tooling along, reading The Wedding Charm convinced that it was a pleasant enough Regency romance. The story might be somewhat familiar - a young man inherits the family estate somewhat unexpectedly only to discover that it has been wasted by his uncle. He goes to the estate, finds an overbearing and obnoxious aunt, a lovely cousin, and his auntís poor relation, a sweet half-French beauty.

Nothing wrong with any of this. Alexander Addington, an officer in the British army, had been born and raised in Italy but had fled when the French moved in. He had left behind his two sisters and his parents. Feeling responsible for his sistersí future, he had assiduously saved his money and given it to a school friend to invest. Thus, he finds himself quite prosperous, thanks to the business acumen of his friendís businessman grandfather. So he has the resources to restore Landry Chase, although he doesnít broadcast this fact to his newfound family.

His aunt and cousin expect that the new baron will be just like all the other Addington men - addicted to gambling and interested only in what he can take out of the estate. Their reception of the new Baron Landry is anything but warm. However, the poor relation, Lara Rochelle and her young brother are more favorably disposed towards the new baron.

But there are strange and mysterious doings on the Norfolk coast. The local officer is convinced that someone at the Chase is involved. And here is where the story went wrong for me. I might have been able to accept that the local vicar is smuggling to support his orphanage. But the plot that has Lara involved in thwarting efforts to restore Napoleon had me scratching my head.

Laraís uncle has gone undercover with a band of rabid Bonapartists in France. They are conspiring to rescue the emperor from St. Helena and restore him to the throne. The uncle sends messages via the smugglers who leave them in an old mill. Lara picks up the messages and takes them to a neighbor who has carrier pigeons. The pigeons carry the news to London where the British government passes it on to the French government. I admit to reading the section over twice to try to make sense of this convoluted process.

Now, we can begin by wondering how anyone could have hoped to rescue Napoleon from a heavily garrisoned island in the middle of the South Atlantic, with a royal naval ship circling this remote outpost regularly. But putting that aside, why in the world was such a complex scheme necessary? Now I enjoy a bit of skullduggery and mystery as much as any reader. But the plot has to make sense. This didnít. Thus, my early enjoyment was ruined.

The Wedding Charm is the final installment of Collumís trilogy about the children of an expatriate Englishman and his Italian wife. The three books are tied together with a good luck charm that passes from one sibling to another and brings them love and happily ever after. I might well have found this installment at least acceptable were it not for the implausible and clumsy plot. As it is, despite an attractive hero, a sweet heroine, and a nice secondary romance, I found this Regency romance less than charming.

--Jean Mason

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