Hard Lovin' Man

Invitation to Seduction

Love With a Scandalous Lord

A Matter of Temptation

Never Love a Cowboy

Never Marry a Cowboy

The Outlaw & the Lady

A Rogue in Texas

Texas Destiny

Texas Glory

Texas Splendor

To Marry an Heiress

 
Promise Me Forever
by Lorraine Heath
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-074982-2
****
I enjoyed this low-key, second chance at love story for its smooth story telling and the focus on the romantic relationship. If you prefer lots of action and plenty of external conflict, you might not find this the most compelling book you’ve ever read.

Lauren Fairfield was born and raised in Texas, but moved to England in her mid-teens when her widowed mother married the Earl of Ravenleigh. In the ten years since then, Lauren and her sisters have worked hard to gain acceptance, learning correct behavior, losing their Texas accents and overcoming English prejudices against ‘uncouth’ Americans.

Now, the ton is agog over news that the son of the Earl of Sasche, reported dead by his mother, will arrive shortly from Texas to claim his inheritance – and Lauren discovers the new earl is no stranger to her.

When she knew him, Tom Warner was a lonely fifteen-year-old orphan, living rough and stealing food when he couldn’t afford to buy it. Lauren used to sneak out of the house at night to meet him. Although their meetings were chaste, they fell in love and Lauren’s heart was broken when her family moved to England.

Now, Tom has inherited a peerage and arrived in London just as Lauren has decided that she can no longer bear the stultifying life of an English aristocrat and is making plans to return to Texas. Because she knows first-hand how difficult it can be to fit in, however, she agrees to remain long enough to teach Tom how to behave like the lord he now is.

And the bulk of the rest of the story is about Tom and Lauren rediscovering their feelings for each other – as adults this time – and trying to figure out what kind of a future they could possibly have. He feels obligated to be in England; she can hardly wait to leave the country where she has never felt at home.

Tom is a charming, slightly roguish hero who has made a success of himself ranching in Texas. While he does lack an understanding of the social intricacies that govern the nobility, he’s not nearly as unpolished as Lauren assumed he would be. Plus, the ladies of the ton seem willing to forgive him just about any gaffe, given that he’s handsome, rich, titled, and calls everybody darlin’. And being a down-to-earth kind of guy, Tom isn’t much bothered if they don’t like him.

Suffice it to say, even if the modern concept of angst had been invented, Tom wouldn’t have paid it no never mind, in spite of his difficult childhood. All he’s really interested in is trying to convince Lauren to stay in England with him, and figuring out how to run the earl business he’s been handed.

Lauren is also a pretty level-headed sort and, after having struggled to fit in all this time, she’s ready to kick over the traces, especially since she’s leaving anyway. She makes most of the appropriate bows to propriety, but embarks on what she assumes will be an affair with Tom with great maturity and composure.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t generate some nice heat when they get together – they do. Both the emotional and the physical connections were nicely developed so I believed their romantic relationship on every level. They just didn’t make a lot of unnecessary fuss about it.

In fact, it is the lack of commotion that will likely be either the book’s greatest strength or its greatest weakness, depending on your personal preference. I found it very pleasant to stroll through a well-written love story about two adults attempting to reconcile their differences.

The place I would have appreciated a little more intensity was in the setting. This story is set in 1880 – Victoria is queen, the Impressionists are painting, and Charles Dickens has been dead for ten years – but everything about this book’s London looked and sounded much as I would expect in a Regency-era historical. More of a sense that this took place sixty years after that period would have been welcome.

Other than that, this is a lovely book to curl up with in a quiet corner for a satisfying read.

-- Judi McKee


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