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Devall's Angel by Allison Lane
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19586-8
Angela Warren is under tremendous pressure to marry. Her shrewish, social-climbing mother is insisting on a grand come-out ball that Angela knows they cannot afford. Her brother, Andrew, is barely bringing the family fortunes into the black again after their father's death, and there will be one Season and one Season only in Angela's future. Marriage to a respectable gentleman will allow Angela to get out from under her mother's domination and histrionics.

Angela first comes to the attention of the notorious Devall Blackthorn when she leaps from a carriage to prevent a child from being beaten. This pretty young woman, who seems to have more spirit and compassion than most of girls he knows, captures the jaded Devall's interest. They soon begin to run into each other at bookstores and parties and such.

Angela's mother, Lady Forley, is horrified to think that her daughter has attracted the attentions of a known rakehell. She much prefers the suit of Gabriel Atwater, a widower with a prime position in Society. Angela is flattered by Atwater's attention. He's rich, titled, handsome. Unfortunately, he's also a patronizing boor. Yet Devall, shunned by Society after a past scandal, is completely beyond the pale. He irritates her even as he fascinates her.

Devall believes Angela to be a fortune-hunter, determined to snare his enemy, Gabriel Atwater. Angela is terrified that the outcast Devall has the power to ruin her just by his acquaintance. They bicker and snap at every opportunity.

My enjoyment of this promising story line was considerably diminished by the overwrought writing. Angela "sighs" on virtually every page. If she's not sighing, she's suppressing a sigh or holding back a sigh. Either that or she's moaning. Or Devall is sighing and moaning. All this sighing and moaning had me doing the same, but in exasperation. And some of the descriptive passages fared no better. "Pain knifed his chest" and "pain stabbed his chest" and "fear knifed his heart". Eyes "impale" and "bore" and "penetrate clear to her soul". (All this on their first meeting.) After the first couple of passages like this, it began to seem silly.

I also had some problems with Angela's reasons for wanting to get married. It all boils down to a) she wants to get away from her mother, and b) she doesn't want to live with her brother after he marries, even though his fiancée is one of Angela's best friends. This reduced her to a bit of a gold-digger. Yes, I know this is a Regency and all that. But hunting down an available man in order to solve your family problems doesn't make for much confidence in the hero and heroine.

All in all, while I enjoyed parts of Devall's Angel, my reading experience wasn't positive enough for me to recommend this book.

--Cathy Sova

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