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His Grace Endures by Emma Jensen
(Fawcett Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-449-00233-0
Have you ever read a book where you wanted to bind and gag the heroine and yell to the hero, "Quick! Run for your life!"? His Grace Endures is just such a book with just such a heroine. At this story's conclusion, you just know His Grace is going to have to endure a lot more during the happily ever after.

Deirdre Macvail, the heroine, is spectacularly beautiful. That must be the only reason that Lucas Gower, the Duke of Conovar, is so smitten with her. It can't be for the considerate way she's always treated him or for the logical processses of her mind.

Seven years earlier Deirdre had literally jilted Lucas at the altar. When the vicar asked if she would love, honor, and obey him, she said no, grabbed up her skirts and high-tailed it out the door to meet Jonas Macvail for the wild dash to Gretna Green. Now Deirdre is a widow and blames Lucas for Jonas's death. (Not that he had anything to do with it, you understand. That's what I meant by her lack of logic.)

Deirdre has been living quietly in Scotland but is now introducing her sister-in-law, Olivia, who's even sillier than Deirdre, to Edinburgh and London society. But who should turn up at the very first society function they attend? (Need you ask.)

Lucas promises to do nothing to scotch Olivia's chances so she and Deirdre and a socially connected older woman head to London. There Deirdre is politely shunned by society while Olivia sets her sights on all the titled and heirs-to-titled gentlemen around. But a portrait of Deirdre entitled "Deirdre of the Sorrows" is exhibited at the Royal Academy, and suddenly sympathy is directed towards her. (Don't ask me to explain why. It didn't make any sense to me.) And discrediting rumors about Lucas are circulating throughout the ton, and Deirdre feels obligated to defend him. Only she gets smashed on champagne at a ball and ends up having a flaming row with him and slapping his face instead.

But does Lucas see the light and say, "Good-bye and good riddance?" (No such luck.)

Olivia slips out in the middle of the night to make a dash to Gretna Green with her true love. (There's a definite lack of originality in this family.) Deirdre desperately seeks assistance to pursue her (for no logical reason), and guess who she seeks it from. (Well, of course.)

Lucas is a really nice hero. When he gets nervous, he breaks out in a rash. How many romantic heroes have such a human imperfection? His private thoughts and fantasies are amusing and endearing. I liked him. I liked him a lot. But his continued devotion to Deirdre defies comprehension.

Deirdre—think "D" for "disaster"—is the kind of heroine I wouldn't wish on a villain. I would prefer my heroines to have some decent character motivation. Hers seems to be that her parents didn't appreciate her until she could be married off to a duke and get them social position. Even if that's true, much of what she thinks, says, and does seems juvenile and just plain stupid. Her last stunt near the end of the book is just as logical as the rest. So much for character development.

Incidentally, the galley proof I read was accompanied by a book cover. On it, the heroine is called Deirdre Broghan and the hero is the Duke of Conover. I would presume that before the book's actually published the discrepancies will be corrected. Or maybe Lucas lucks out and actually gets another woman. Wouldn't that be nice!

--Lesley Dunlap

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