An Unlikely Father

Lady Miranda's Masquerade

The Spy's Bride

Sweet Temptations

The Wedding Charm

Miss Whiting and the Seven Wards
by Lynn Collum
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7290-2
Fairy tales are the stuff of romance and many an author has chosen to use these old familiar stories as the basis for her novel. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Lynn Collum’s take on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is one of those times that it doesn’t. In trying to use the old familiar scenario, Collum has created a story that lacks both credibility and creativity.

The author follows the plot pretty faithfully. Miss Sarah Whiting has been kept at school much longer than most young ladies of her status. She and two other friends, unwanted by their families, have stayed on well into their nineteenth year. But the school is closing and the girls can’t stay. Sarah returns home to live with her stepmother, the Dowager Lady Whitefield. The beauteous dowager is infuriated when one of her suitors admires the lovely Sarah. When an aunt leaves Sarah a very generous bequest, her fate is sealed.

Lady Whitefield orders her trusty groom to dispose of her stepdaughter. The groom fulfills his task by throwing Sarah into the raging Severn River. Now her ladyship has both disposed of a potential rival to her beauty and put herself in line for the inheritance, or so she thinks.

Sarah does not drown but she is washed far down the river. When she finally gets to the bank, she faints and is rescued by three young brothers: Jamie, Peter and Ronald Ward who take her to their home in Wild Rose Cottage, on the estate of the new Earl of Longmire. Sarah discovers that there are four other boys and that their mother had died some months ago. The boys have kept her death secret because they fear that the new earl will force them out of the cottage that the old earl had given them. They prevail on Sarah to pretend to be their mother and she, fearing for her life, agrees.

Indeed, the new earl would like to force Mrs. Ward out of her cottage so that his new wife’s mother can move in. So he enlists the aid of an old army friend, Sir Evan Beaumont, to try to discover what hold Mrs. Ward had on his father that would have led to her receiving a lifetime free lease on Wild Rose Cottage.

The set-up is now complete and the story proceeds exactly as might be expected. Sarah straightens out the cottage and the boys, Sir Evan arrives to ferret out what’s going on, the wicked step-mother discovers that Sarah is still alive, etc. and so forth.

Perhaps this predictability would not have detracted from my enjoyment had I found the hero and heroine particularly interesting and had their romance been developed. But both Sarah and Sir Evan seem like stock characters and it is hard to tell why or how they fall in love. She is beautiful and kind; he is a wounded warrior. Neither is particularly interesting. Nor are any of the secondary characters particularly well developed.

Characterization is not particularly important in fairy tales. It is important in romance novels. Thus, I advise thinking twice before reading Miss Whiting and the Seven Wards.

--Jean Mason

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