Annabella's Diamond

Balmorrow's Bride

Camilla's Fate

A Devilish Dilemma

Lord Nightingale's Debut

Lord Nightingale's Love Song

Lord Nightingale's Triumph

Mutiny at Almacks

A Season of Virtues

A HREF = "lansdowne-kiss.html">The Mystery Kiss

 
My Fair Quiggley
by Judith A. Lansdowne
(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7017-9
****
Judith A. Lansdowne delivers another lighthearted romance with My Fair Quiggley. You’re not likely to find another story in which the hero and heroine meet after she knocks him off a horse with a slingshot.

Christopher Wesley, Marquis of Daxonbury, is enroute to Yorkshire to visit his Aunt Miranda. Dax has fond childhood memories of his vivacious aunt, and the fact that nobody has heard from her in some time is cause for concern. Dax is nearing Lavender Hill, his aunt’s home, when he comes across a stranded carriage with a sobbing woman in it. As he stops to give aid, he’s knocked unconscious.

Miss Desdemona Quiggley’s aim is true - she has felled the man she believes to be Dandy Dan, the notorious highwayman. The five hundred pound reward on his head will be invaluable in helping Dessie and her business partners get Lavender Hill Enterprises out of debt. It isn’t long before Dessie, Miranda, and their friend Ariel discover their mistake. This is Miranda’s nephew, not a highwayman, and when he comes to, they have a lot of explaining to do.

Miranda, sister of a duke, is determined to rebuild her lavender sachet business after a devastating fire that claimed not only her house, but also her lavender drying barn. The highwayman’s reward seemed just the ticket. Now the real Dandy Dan is still on the loose, having kidnapped a sweet young thing named Elizabeth from the home of a local nobleman. When Elizabeth makes her escape in a thunderstorm and Dandy Dan gives chase, several comic surprises are in store for the reader, and soon Miranda’s little cottage is full of women, nephew, highwayman, servants, and critters. As Dax attempts to sort out the truth behind the mysterious fires, he and Dessie find they are irresistibly drawn to each other. As for Dandy Dan, he’s really Josiah Elliott, ex-soldier with a gentleman’s demeanor and a mysterious past.

There are several plot threads in this story, and all are cleverly entwined. Dax and Dessie’s budding romance is charming. He’s not looking to lose his heart, but if he were, this sassy, independent miss would be just the woman for him. Dessie is a lively combination of sensibility and free-spiritedness, and she’s not about to kowtow to any man, marquis or no. To her, Dax is fascinating and slightly irritating, and once she gets to know him as a friend, she can’t help falling in love with him.

In less-experienced hands than Ms. Lansdowne’s, Dessie could easily have come across as a twit, but here she’s given a dash of maturity and self-deprecation that keeps her safely on the side of enjoyability. Dax and Dessie give as good as they get, and their verbal sparring helps deepen their understanding of each other, instead of just being the background noise and posturing found in too many books.

Miranda and the highwayman, Josiah, have a sweet secondary romance that is left hanging at the end, and the third woman, Ariel, barely makes an impression. Perhaps she’s being saved for another book. I’d like to know what happens to Aunt Miranda’s romance, though, and exactly what Josiah’s past includes. He was an interesting and empathetic guy who deserves a happy ending of his own.

My Fair Quiggley is a delightful, charming romance sure to make you smile. Judith Lansdowne’s fans will greet this one with open arms, and if you haven’t yet tried her books, this one’s a good place to start.

--Cathy Sova


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