A Chance Encounter

Harriet's Beau

Lord Ware's Widow

Miss Haycroft's Suitors

Miss Timothy Perseveres

The Unexpected Wife

An Uncommon Bequest

The Dangerous Baron Leigh
by Emily Hendrickson
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19929-4
The Dangerous Baron Leigh commits the ultimate cardinal sin of the romance genre. Not just ineffective writing or poor plotting or silly characters, though those abound. No, even worse, this book is just plain boring.

Lady Jocelyn is traveling to her cousin Lora's house party in Derbyshire when her carriage is caught in a torrential downpour. When they reach a hill, the load must be lightened, and since her maid is taking a chill, Jocelyn offers to get out and walk. As she's slogging uphill in the mud, a horse canters up and a man offers her a lift. He turns out to be Lord Peter Leigh, a rejected suitor from Jocelyn's past.

Seems Jocelyn spurned Peter five years ago because he awakened some unseemly emotions in her. So she sent him away. Now they are thrown together again at the house party, and Peter makes no secret of the fact that he's just as attracted to Jocelyn now as he was five y ears ago. Jocelyn doesn't know what to make of this. Her heart still pitter-patters at the sight of Peter.

Cousin Lora isn't too happy, either. A valuable necklace is missing, and she doesn't know who stole it. Peter and Jocelyn decide they will investigate and unmask the culprit.

And there you have it -- the sum total of the plot. Peter and Jocelyn spend a lot of time sneaking in and out of the guests' bedrooms and hiding on window ledges endeavoring not to be seen. When they aren't playing amateur sleuth, they're trading dull quips. Or Peter is casting meaningful, sensuous glances at Jocelyn. Or she's wondering if Peter still hates her. Not exactly scintillating stuff.

The secondary characters are equally lifeless. All the guests seem to be Odious French, which puzzled me a bit. They also stalk off and huff and toss their heads a lot. Why most of them have to be sneering twits was beyond me. Maybe to try and make Peter and Jocelyn look a little less empty-headed? It didn't work.

The plot suffered from gaps in logic, too. Peter strolls in and out of Jocelyn's bedroom and nobody lifts an eyebrow, but when they are stranded for less than an hour in a cottage in the rain, everyone seems to expect he'll propose marriage. Which he does. This gives Jocelyn even more time to wonder if Peter really loves her or if he was just being gentlemanly. Since Peter spends a lot of time trying to pull Jocelyn into his heated embrace, etc., it made her seem even less astute.

The effect of The Dangerous Baron Leigh on this reader was a big yawn. The Regency genre has much better to offer than this. Give it a pass.

--Cathy Sova

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