An Uncommon Courtship

The Artful Heir

The Gallant Gambler

The Magnolia Tree

Miss Maitland's Letters

The Noble Nephew

The Righteous Rogue

The Scandalous Heiress

The Seductive Spy

Three for Brighton

His Lordship’s Swan
by Martha Kirkland
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6722-4
His Lordship’s Swan is a Regency with a great beginning, a great ending, and a few too many predictable plot elements in the middle filling up the space. Lord Evan Trent is under pressure to find himself a bride. His young cousin Jack, the heir presumptive, has been rendered deaf by an illness and is declaring he no longer wishes to be the heir and will never marry. Women flock to the dashing Evan, a former naval officer and war hero. Finding a suitable wife shouldn’t be difficult. After reviewing his list of requirements - pretty, biddable, quiet - he decides to offer for one of the ravishing Swann twins he met in Bath. Problem is, he can’t remember their names. No matter, Evan decides. He’ll simply pen a letter to Sir Beecham Swann asking for the hand of his eldest daughter in marriage. One twin will do as well as another.

Sir Beecham is delighted to receive an offer for his eldest daughter. Unbeknownst to Evan, she’s not a petite blonde twin, but a tall redhead named Lydia. Lydia, for her part, is astonished to receive a marriage offer from a wealthy nobleman she’s never met, and even more shocked to find that her father expects her to accept the offer and infuse the family with a bit of ready cash.

Lydia, being an intelligent sort, quickly figures out the mistake. When Lord Trent arrives, she has a plan all ready. She’ll travel to Evan’s family home with him, ostensibly to see if they will suit. But her real reason is to try and renew an association with one of Evan’s neighbors, Sebastian Osborne. Sebastian is a cousin by marriage, and the man to whom Lydia lost her heart eight years ago. Now that Lydia is no longer a green girl of sixteen but a much improved young woman of twenty-four, perhaps Sebastian will return her feelings.

Evan agrees and the charade is on. Of course, things don’t turn out as planned. Lydia befriends his despondent young cousin and charms his mother, all the while awakening a spark of fun and joie de vivre that has been missing in Evan’s life. But a visiting naval officer and Sebastian Osborne are going to provide some competition for Lydia. If Evan intends to capture a Swann, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Lydia and Evan steal the show in this story, and rightfully so. Lydia’s forthright manner and sense of humor are a perfect foil for Evan’s world-weary indifference to the state of marriage. What to do with a woman who confesses to putting gooseberry jam in her sisters’ hair as a child because she couldn’t stand to see them looking so perfect? A woman who would love nothing more than to sit in the coxswain’s seat of a racing shell, guiding the crew? Evan can’t help himself. He’s enchanted.

Lydia is equally enchanted with Evan. He’s not supposed to be more intriguing and attractive than Sebastian, but…Sebastian just doesn’t measure up somehow. Not next to Evan, anyway.

The freshness of these characters doesn’t extend to the situations in which they find themselves. For instance, Lydia declares she’d like to learn to play billiards. You just know what position Evan will assume as he teaches her, don’t you? I felt as though the end result was planned first, and then the situation contrived to fit. An episode in a rowboat felt the same, as did Lydia’s efforts to fabricate a Regency-style Wonderbra. I just knew what was going to happen, and sure enough, it did. Thus my enjoyment of the characters was marred by my irritation with the predictability of the plot.

However, Evan and Lydia offer much to like. If you enjoy Regencies with strong characters who establish a friendship before falling in love, His Lordship’s Swan may be just what you’re looking for.

--Cathy Sova

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