The Bride Thief

In Over His Head

Love and the Single Heiress

Not Quite a Gentleman

Red Roses Mean Love

A Sure Thing

Whirlwind Affair

Whirlwind Wedding

Never A Lady by Jacquie D’Alessandro
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 006-077941-1
If you have read Not Quite A Gentlemen by this author, then you would probably rate this tale an unequivocal four hearts. Since I had not, I was lost on a big part of the backstory that played a key role in understanding the hero’s actions and what the mystery involved in the story was really all about. I would recommend to any reader who has not read the previous book to read TRR’s review of the story. By reading that after the fact, it filled in most of the details I needed. Never A Lady is a good romance on its own…it could have been so much more.

Colin Oliver, Viscount Sutton, has decided it is time to search for a wife. He came to London determined to do his duty before he dies. Colin has been feeling like there is danger in the air and (since he is the same age as his mother when she died) that his mortal life will be over soon. He carries a sense of guilt around from an episode when he was in service to the Crown where he didn’t trust his brother, which led to him being shot and having to kill another man…a man who was an agent. But he knows his duty and that is to produce an heir. He also knows that his brother Nathan, who is a doctor and is married, wants nothing to do with the title and would be furious if Colin died without a male heir.

“Madame Larchmont” is a renowned fortuneteller who is entertaining guests in the finest homes at the most successful soirees of the season. Alexandra is not a Madame, but she can read the cards, a gift she learned from her mother before she died. But Alex is also from the poor side of life…she grew up on the streets, stealing just to survive. She came upon this scheme in order to get out of the life of crime and avoid prostitution. She rooms with a friend, who sells oranges and baked goods. They have opened their little room to orphans and those who just need a safe place to sleep at night. One little boy, Robbie, is only five or six, and Alexandra has taken him under her wing so he feels some safety, despite having a drunken lout for a father and a life of crime forced on him by that father. Alex’s dream is to make enough money off the ton that she and Emma can open a bigger home and actually teach these children, so that they can earn a trade and get off the streets like she did. In fact, she still has nightmares about the night four years ago when she was picking a pocket in Vauxhall and she got caught. The man who caught her was none other than Colin.

Colin, too has never forgotten the look in her eyes and her face, beautiful despite the dirt, when he caught her stealing his grandfather’s watch. He has often returned to the Gardens to see if he could find her, but he never did. Then one night he spies her reading cards at a large gathering he has been forced to attend in order to find his bride.

Although they recognize the other, they act indifferent. When Alex reads the cards for Colin and his whole future seems to be clouded with danger and a dark-haired woman, they become embroiled in a mystery that puts Alexandra in danger. Colin and his brother decide they must solve this mystery and enlist the help of Nathan’s wife Victoria and her father Lord Wexhall (both from the previous book and both with a history in the spy game).

This story starts very slowly. It is interesting to note that the author takes 100 pages to give details of Alex’s past, but spares only a passing glance about Colin’s. This leaves the reader very sympathetic to Alex and rather annoyed at Colin, because of a lack of understanding of his character. Once we get into the meat of this story, however, the pace picks up and engages the reader in Colin and Alex’s romance. The sexual tension builds and is ably handled. While they seem to have no future due to their dissimilar backgrounds, their passion and enjoyment of each other in and out of bed is grand. The dialogue is witty and the activities leap from the pages. There were a few times that the detail in scenery was a bit full and the depth of the thinking presented went on a tad too long. I mention it only because at times, I found myself putting the book down mid-chapter because I didn’t feel the need to come to a good ending place. That is not always a good sign.

Never A Lady, however, is an enjoyable Regency-set romance and is unique in that it features a woman who is an interloper and not part of the ton. Yet she is more of a lady in character than most. The hero is strong and worthy of his heroine. By reading the other novel or at the least, a review that details the major plotlines of it, you can then pick up this one and be entertained beyond a shadow of a doubt.

--Shirley Lyons

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