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Moonlight by Miranda Jarrett
(Sonnet, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-671-03261-5
Miranda Jarrett has made 18th century America her own, first with her popular Sparhawk family series and now with the saga of the Fairbournes of Massachusettes. Moonlight is a most worthy successor to the highly rated Wishing. If it doesn't have that magical quality that led my colleague to rate the second book in the series as a keeper, Moonlight is nonetheless an absolutely delightful romance.

This is the story of Joshua Fairbourne and Amelie Lacroix, two of the nicest people ever to grace the pages of a romance. Joshua is in Boston overseeing the building of his cousin's sloop, a fine ship which he will captain once it is completed. Invited to the wedding of the daughter of one of Boston's richest men, he bespies a lovely young woman watching the festivities from a doorway. Intrigued, he seeks her hand in a dance.

Amelie is not at the wedding as a guest. Rather she is the talented dressmaker who has made the bride beautiful. Fearful of calling attention to herself, she seeks to flee. Joshua assists her in her escape, but before she disappears, he steals a kiss in the moonlight. Imagine his surprise when the next day, as he runs an errand for his cousin's wife, he once again discovers his maid of the moonlight.

Amelie is equally nonplused when Joshua walks into her shop. She had enjoyed the stolen kiss much too much. At twenty-five, Amelie has staunchly avoided all romantic entanglements. She and her sister Juliette have become successful businesswomen and have no need to marry for financial security. Moreover, Amelie had been schooled by her much loved mother that true love is an illusion. As the daughters of French emigres in staunchly anti-French Boston, they have had to behave with the strictest discretion. Any hint of scandal would threaten their livelihood.

There is an added problem. Someone is threatening the sisters, insisting that they leave Boston or pay the consequences.

Moonlight has my most favorite kind of romance. There is no love at first sight, but rather a mutual attraction that realistically develops into true love as the hero and heroine come to know and appreciate each other. Jarrett describes their growing love with a talented pen.

Joshua is no dark hero; rather, he is an ambitious and able man, a most attractive fellow. He has nothing against falling in love; he just doesn't expect it to happen to him. His bemused confusion as he tries to sort out his feelings for Amelie (and as his friends and relatives try to point out to him what is obvious to everyone else) is charmingly drawn.

Amelie carries more baggage and is equally bemused by her feelings. She prides herself on her independence and ability and is loathe to consider giving them up. And it is very hard to quickly abandon the teachings of a lifetime about the futility, and indeed danger, of love.

Jarrett sets up a conflict between the two that is realistic without being overdone. She also integrates the mystery plot of who wishes the Lacroix sisters ill and why very effectively into her story.

Finally, Jarrett paints a fine picture of Boston in 1725, its people, its setting, its society, its fashions, its day to day activities. The cast of secondary characters come nicely to life, with all their good and bad points evocatively drawn. I thought her portrayal of the cat was especially well done. I know cats just like Luna.

Miranda Jarrett has made 18th century New England her own. She succeeds in making it both realistic and romantic. Moonlight has a lovely romance; it has humor; it has drama; and it the ability to transport the reader to another time and another place. I can't imagine what more any romance reader would want.

--Jean Mason

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