Lord Deverillís Secret
by Amanda Grange
(Berkley, $14.00, PG) ISBN 978-0425-21772-6
****
This is a pure Regency novel that delights the senses and allows a reader to get a real feel for life in the time period. It is all the more engaging because the setting is Brighton rather than London and the people are actually slightly impoverished even if they are members of the ton. Lord Deverillís Secret is one to enjoy.

Cassandra Paxton goes to Brighton to clean and then sell her home there to help pay expenses on the primary family estate so that she and her sister can live without fearing the creditors. Her parents were killed a few years ago in a carriage mishap and her brother Rupert had died as a result of a horse riding accident. She is just out of mourning. Cassandra is twenty-two and missed her season due to the various deaths. Now her goal is to gain enough money to raise her 10-year-old sister and make sure Lizzie has what she needs in order to marry when the time comes.

Along with her friends Maria and Harry Winter, Cassie is determined to enjoy Brighton since she doesnít know when she might return. But she also has a mission. She found a letter Rupert had started writing to her that indicated he had been involved in something he should not have. But her only clue is that he indicated he wanted to make amends. She is determined to question all his friends to see if they can tell her what he is referencing. No demands for money have arrived, making her hope for the best. She first seeks out Lord Justin Deverill.

Justin is younger than she thought, but at twenty-nine he is just in his prime. She is surprised that he had been friends with Rupert, too, as he didnít act like he had the time to whittle away hours on gambling and drinking, as it appeared Rupert did. She visits him at the start of the story and discovers that he had been with Rupert during his late night ride, which had resulted in his death. Cassie senses that Justin is not telling her the whole truth, but must accept his word that his death truly was a riding accident and he was probably referring to a bad gambling decision. After seeking out other friends and getting the same story, she begins to despair of ever hearing the truth. Then the accidents (aka murder attempts) start occurring. Justin finally tells her the truth in order to protect her and the two enter into a plot to uncover the villain. As they become more emotionally entangled, complications arise since Justin is also impoverished and seeking an heiress as a bride; a status that Cassie does not meet.

This tale has a lotÖnice romance and sexual feelings without explicit details; characters who have intelligence and actually talk to each other; friends who support each other; and a view of the early 1800ís that throws in unique details. One example is the description of the bathing chambers at the seashore from the entry on the beach to the separation of the men from the women. Another is the illusion of grandeur of the Pavilion, the palace of the Prince in Brighton.

Grange is a British writer and this is the American publication of her book. Her writing is reminiscent of an Austen and is set in the time frame of Pride and Prejudice. There are some similarities, especially in the settings and the era. The story drags just a hair at times, but then something new occurs and it picks right up. Fans of Regency romances will truly enjoy this story. Donít hesitate to pick up Lord Deverillís Secret.

--Shirley Lyons


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