Annabella's Diamond

Balmorrow's Bride

Camilla's Fate

Camilla's Fate

Just in Time

Lord Nightingale's Love Song

Lord Nightingale's Triumph

Mutiny at Almacks

My Fair Quiggley

The Mystery Kiss

A Season of Virtues

Shall We Dance?

Just Impossible by Judith A. Lansdowne
(Zebra, $5.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7423-9
Just Impossible is a fun read! Itís a light romance with lots of mystery and intrigue. The characters are refreshingly mature and intelligent; and the reader is never asked to suspend her sense of reason for even a moment.

Following the death of her aunt, Julia Delacroix has brought her 18 year old cousin, Emma Merriweather, to London for her coming-out. Juliaís first matter of business is to approach William Thorne, Duke of Berinwick, to show him a trinket that she was bequeathed in her Aunt Margaretís will. The trinket is supposed to be of great value to the Thorne family and she has been told he will pay a great deal for it. The money is needed to fund Emmaís coming-out.

Julia and Emma meet George Warren, a ward of the Duke of Berinwick, at the Dukeís London residence while trying to seek him out. George escorts the girls on their journey to Blackcastle where the Duke is in residence at the time. When the Duke sees the trinket, he immediately agrees to purchase it from Julia. The Duke welcomes the girls into his home and explains to them the importance of the trinket to his family. After a bit of bargaining, the next morning the Duke gives three thousand pounds and use of his London townhouse for the Season in trade for the valuable trinket and an explanation for what Julia is hiding. The Duke notices that Julia has been acting a bit strange and seems to be hiding something from him. Julia reluctantly confides in the Duke that she has plans to find her sisterís murderer in London and shoot him dead, in public if need be.

The Duke does not wish to see Julia hang for murder and he decides to present his young ward, George, in London for the Season as a premise for keeping watch on Julia and perhaps helping her find this man. He sets up residence in the London townhouse with Julia and Emma for the Season, along with his mother, the Duchess, and many servants and coachmen, who also play a large part in the story. The ton is full of gossip about the Duke taking up residence in London this time of year and filling his house with servants and guests. The Duke is a very dark and mysterious man who normally keeps to himself and is feared by most of society. The eye patch and scars that creep from under it help to make him formidable and intimidating.

As the Season progresses, and amid a mass of social functions, the Duke becomes Juliaís greatest ally in the hunt for her villain. Itís fun to see the elements of the mystery come out as the information is shared between characters. Julia originally swears the Duke to secrecy, but he accidentally tells another about her plans for murder and that person tells another and so on. Each person takes their part in the plot as they are told about Juliaís secret.

The romance between Julia and the Duke is slow to unfold, but is quite touching and tender. There are some quotes these two characters use while professing their love to each other that are sure to be remembered long after the book is set down. There is also a secondary romance between the young Emma and George, as well as some romantic and cute moments between the Dukeís mother and stepfather.

The author also includes witty banter and comical situations that leave the reader laughing out loud. As a general warning, the dialogue is quite formal with almost no use of contractions. I didnít find it to be a hindrance, however, even though I normally prefer a more casual tone. It works in this instance because the entire feel of the story and characters is very formal. The comical situations seem to offset this formality quite nicely.

There was one minor portion of the story that could have been left out altogether. The Duke wears a silver pendant that is mentioned briefly a couple times. This pendant is said to feel warm and sometimes appears to glow. Itís never clear whether the pendant is supposed to have magical powers, elicit feelings of love, or simply act as a good luck charm for finding a wife. This is a bit confusing and the Duke himself doesnít know why he feels the need to wear it. He is supposedly not an attractive man (mostly because he is missing an eye and has scars associated with it), but Julia falls in love with him for reasons that are clear to the reader without some kind of magic needed for persuasion.

The mystery has many parts to it, but it was a bit disappointing to be able to guess a portion of it early in the story. Iím sure the reader isnít supposed to be able to pick up on it because it is a major revealing point at the very end. There were enough other aspects left to be revealed that I did get some satisfaction. But the story missed keeper status because of this.

Otherwise, Just Impossible is a great read. Clear your calendar for the entire day, you wonít want to put this one down for a minute.

--Tracy Merritt

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