The Abduction of Julia

A Belated Bride

The Seduction of Sara

 
An Affair to Remember by Karen Hawkins
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-82079-X
*****
Itís not every author who can take a basic plot premise that has been used often and turn it into something special. The ability to write an engrossing tale which relies on the richness of the characters, rather than a convoluted, complicated plot, is a mark of true talent. The premise of An Affair to Remember is simple and familiar: intelligent, stubborn, fiery governess stands up against handsome, stubborn, strong-willed (yet charming) Earl. Yet, while it presents no exciting plot twists, this story is elevated above the rest by its beautifully told romance between two memorable characters.

Anthony Elliott, the Earl of Greyley, has spent all of his adult life trying to reform his notoriously irresponsible family. Ever since he came into his title at the age of 17, he has been trying to exert some control over the Elliotts, who are quite a wild and reckless bunch. The latest problem foisted upon him comes in the form of five unruly children who, as the result of a cousinís will, have been placed in his care. Anthony attacks this situation as he does all of the problems in his life - with swift, decisive action.

He moves the children into his huge house immediately. This frightens and angers the children, and frustrates their selfish and manipulative grandmother, Lady Putney, who wishes to keep the children in order to promote her own financial gain. The children proceed to act out, playing horrible tricks on both the Earl and his household staff. After they have driven away more governesses than he can count, Anthony realizes that the time has come for drastic measures. Reluctantly, he admits that he must put his own personal feelings aside and hire the governess who has taken London by storm - his sisterís best friend, Anna Thraxton, a woman who has been a thorn in Anthonyís side for years.

Although Anna grew up as a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the ton herself, financial circumstances have forced her to seek employment. These financial circumstances include her grandfather, Sir Phineasí, hobby of making risky investments, and her own love of fashion and passion for shopping. Because she is now a governess, Anna finds herself at an awkward position in society. Anna is an intelligent, strong-willed woman, who has crossed swords with Anthony on more than one occasion in the past. She feels uncomfortable about working for him, but agrees to do so.

Even before Anna goes to Greyley House to begin her work, the attraction between Anthony and Anna is obvious. Once she is there, living in his home, it becomes a real conflict. Anna doesnít feel right about being attracted to Anthony because she is the governess; Anthony doesnít feel itís right because he is (unofficially) betrothed to a shy, naÔve 18 year old whom he has chosen to be his future countess. As time goes on, Anthony recognizes that Anna is the one that he really wants, but is bound by honor to follow through with his engagement. This being the case, he offers Anna the only other option - to become his mistress. Naturally, this is unacceptable to Anna. Her own sense of honor and self-respect will not allow her to be ďkeptĒ by any man. Although she is tempted by her desire for Anthony, she refuses him. This is the central conflict of the book. Both characters are constrained by the roles that have been prescribed for them by society, as well as by their own sense of honor.

The relationship between Anna and Anthony develops slowly, yet is very intense. Once Anthony decides that he has to have Anna, there is no stopping him. He proceeds to pursue her with a single-minded determination that just about took my breath away. What woman wouldnít love to be pursued so ruthlessly? Anna is a fascinating character, in that she seems to have two conflicting sides - the practical governess and the fashionable society girl. It is this contrast between what she once was, and what she has been forced to become that adds depth and vulnerability to her character.

Anthony and Anna really come alive in this story. The chemistry between these two is powerful. The dialogue between them was some of the wittiest, yet also the most romantic that I have read in quite some time. The maturity of the characters is notable, as well. They do not try to deny the attraction between them. They are ready to admit that itís there, even as they are unsure what is to be done about it. These are memorable characters, the kind who stick around in your mind for days after youíve finished the book.

If you are a fan of historical romances set in the Regency period, An Affair to Remember is one novel you wonít want to miss. While the plot may seem deceptively simple, it is a case of something simple done exquisitely well.

--Kerry Keating


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