A Kiss for Mama
by Jo Ann Ferguson, Valerie King, & Jeanne Savery
(Zebra, $$4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6807-7
**
None of the stories in this trio of Regency mommy tales rise above the lackluster. And forget the cute tots on the cover. They don’t exist in any of these stories.

In “The Dowager’s Dilemma” by Jo Ann Ferguson, we find widowed Camilla Hoxworthy watching as her nearly-adult son cuts a wide swath through the Season, acting like a rakehell. If that weren’t enough, her new neighbor, Lord Overbrook, storms into her house one day to accuse Camilla’s mother of kidnapping his uncle. Camilla is incensed and all but throws him out. Later she’s aghast to find that her son has invited Lord Overbrook and his daughter and uncle to stay at the Hoxworthy home until their furniture arrives. Now she has this odious man underfoot all the time. And he’s too attractive, too.

This is a story that could never take place except for the fact that the leads never talk to one another like reasonable adults. They hurl accusations, make lightning-quick assumptions, and generally act like spoiled brats. As for the “kidnapping” element, this reader’s reaction was, “big deal”. When two mature people in their sixties decide to step out for an evening, it hardly makes for a crisis. Even in a Regency. A forced plot and an equally forced romance did not make for a memorable reading experience.

Things improve somewhat with “A Mother’s Devotion” by Valerie King. Sophy Deverell is astonished to find Lord Sheriston on her doorstep one morning. Years earlier, Sophy and Sheriston had loved one another, but their romance fell apart when Sophy was left with the care of her four half-siblings. Now Sheriston’s ward appears to have run off to Gretna Green with Agnes, the eldest of Sophy’s sisters. It’s up to Sheriston and Sophy to pack up the children and follow them.

Along the way, Sheriston and Sophy will have to face the very things that drove them apart nine years earlier: his insistence that Sophy devote herself to him, and her overprotectiveness toward the children. If this couple is to grab their second chance at happiness, they’ll both have to grow up a bit and learn to bend.

The premise was good and the execution smooth, but this story simply felt too long. It moves from inn to inn to country house, and after a while, it dragged. I felt as thought I was reading some of the scenes twice as Sheriston and Sophy argue about the children and their feelings toward each other, storm off, then reconcile. Enough already. The effect of this was I had little faith in their eventual resolution. How long until the next argument, storm off, reconcile, etc.? Others may feel differently.

In the last story, “Happily Ever After” by Jeanne Savery, Justina Dunsforth has taken her young niece and nephew into her home because her brother has been called out of the country, again. Justina belong to that class of romance heroine who starts out as completely unpalatable and is supposed to undergo a wondrous transformation by the end of the story, but here the author makes her so unlikable at the outset that it’s impossible for readers to root for her. Justina is an author of children’s stories, but she can’t abide children. They upset her ordered life, play croquet on her neatly manicured lawns, run up and down stairs, and behave like, well, children! As she points out to her butler,

“They are children, Howard, mere children. A necessary nuisance, of course, but until they reach the age of reason, they are of very little use to anyone. Including themselves.”

Enter Theo, Lord Mowbray, the children’s godfather. Theo is appalled that anyone would sink to leaving their offspring with a selfish, cold woman like Justina, and readers can hardly blame him. But the children have other ideas. Soon they are teaching Aunt Justina to Have Fun. Theo casts longing glances Justina’s way. But he has a mad wife locked up in an asylum and Justina is firmly off limits.

This story did nothing for me. With its unlikable heroine, flat romance, and predictable plot resolution, there was little to capture the imagination. Not recommended.

If you’re dying for a Regency story featuring a mother, (although two of the three in this book were virgins) then A Kiss for Mama might bring you some reading pleasure. But if you’re looking for a sparkling Regency read, spend your money elsewhere.

--Cathy Sova


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