Best Laid Schemes


His Grace Endures

Irish Rogue

A Grand Design by Emma Jensen
(Signet, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-20121-3
Cate Buchanan is another of those unusual Regency heroines who finds a way to overcome the limits imposed on women in the past. In her case, she is the brains behind her familyís architectural business. Like all such heroines, her true role has to be hidden. When the firm of Buchanan and Buchanan wins the job of remodeling the neglected London mansion of the Marquess of Tregaron, this need for secrecy becomes more difficult because of the growing attraction between Cate and her employer.

Tregaron fled London and society eight years earlier after the suspicious death of his beautiful and unfaithful wife. When she was found dead on the floor below a railing, many in the ton whispered that Tregaron had pushed her. There was no proof and the marquess insisted that he had returned to his London house earlier in the evening. Still, the gossip and his own sense of failure had led Tregaron to retreat precipitously to his Welsh estates. Now, the need to find a bride and beget an heir has brought him back to London.

Receiving the commission to restore Tregaronís house could be the making of the reputations of Buchanan and Buchanan, but only if no one discovers that neither Angus, a sculptor, nor Ambrose, a painter, has the least interest in architecture. Indeed, the talent and the skill that has kept the Buchanan family barely solvent belongs to their niece Catherine. Cate is understandably nervous that her secret will be discovered.

Cate is a gentlemanís daughter with connections among the ton. She is uninterested in making a mark in society. Tall, red-haired and freckled, at twenty-six, she has no expectations of ever marrying. However, her lovely young sister, Lucy, dreams of taking the ton by storm. Thus, when an old friend opens some doors to the Buchanan sisters, Cate finds herself in the company of the marquess and of Lord Fremont, a nasty man who, in the past, had trifled with her affections.

The unwelcome attentions of Fremont serve the purpose of bringing Cate and Tregaron together. But the essence of the story is the growing relationship between Cate and Tregaron. The latter is truly a wounded hero. His first marriage and his rejection by his peers had left him cold and alone. His growing attraction to the unusual Cate begins the process of thawing his heart and healing his wounds.

Cate has accepted that she is unattractive to men. Lord Fremontís actions simply confirmed her belief that she would never marry. She has accepted her role as the sensible Buchanan, the one who keeps the family together. She lives in constant fear that the fact that she is the real architect in the family will be revealed. The attentions of Tregaron may well threaten exposure, however much she enjoys them.

Jensen provides a delightful cast of secondary characters. Cateís irrepressible uncles add more than a bit of humor. Tregaronís devoted grandmother is a delightful addition as is the medieval-mad Lady Leverham, the sistersí sponsor. Even the beauteous Lucy, turns out to be more than the stereotypical spoiled beauty.

As someone who spends much of her TV time watching HGTV, I also found the details of 19th century remodeling methods most enjoyable. Jensen brought not only her characters, but also the house to life for me. It sounded just lovely.

The romance in A Grand Design is a familiar one but Jensen has given it a special twist. I certainly enjoyed reading this book. It confirms by belief that Emma Jensen is one of our best Regency authors.

--Jean Mason

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