Alas, My Love

The Cad

The Challenge

The Chance

The Choice

The Conquest

The Devil's Bargain

The Return of the Earl

A Regency Christmas

To Tempt a Bride

To Wed a Stranger

 
Gypsy Lover by Edith Layton
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 006-075784-1
*****
Edith Layton is a wonderful storyteller, with a gift for creating characters I love. The hero and heroine of this book manage to be both rather ordinary people and totally unique individuals. I was captivated by their romance.

Daffyd Reynard, son of a gypsy father and noble mother, spent his early life on the streets, surviving any way he could. When he was convicted of stealing and shipped off to Botany Bay, he made friends with a man and his son who were also being transported. When the man was able to return to England, clear his name, and take his place as the rightful earl of Egremont, Daffyd’s mentor ensured that Daffyd received both the education and the polish that would enable him to move easily in the upper echelons of society.

Or, it would, if the aristrocrats could forgive his gypsy heritage.

Daffyd despises his mother, but when she asks for his help in finding her goddaughter, Rosalind, who has inexplicably run away from home just before marrying her childhood sweetheart, Daffyd agrees to help. He relishes having his mother owe him a debt he plans never to collect.

While making enquiries, Daffyd runs across Rosalind’s companion, Margaret Shaw. Knowing that unless the runaway is speedily returned to family and fiancé she cannot hope for the references she must have to get a new post, Meg has decided to look for Rosalind herself. Meg’s a little naïve, but she’s neither stupid nor silly. She knows that her chances of finding her charge are slim, especially if she’s on her own.

But with her future on the line, as much as Rosalind’s, she cannot sit at home wringing her hands and hoping someone else will solve the problem. So a bemused Daffyd finds himself with a traveling companion – one whose reputation must somehow emerge from this adventure unsullied.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And it is. I’ll admit, I have a weakness for road romances, but the trip is no fun unless the company is good – and Meg and Daffyd are very good company, indeed.

There isn’t an enormous amount of plot, and I didn’t miss it for a moment, partly because I really like character-driven romance and partly because the story just kept pulling me forward.

Daffyd, a charming rascal who chafes under the prejudice against gypsies, finds himself oddly confused when Meg doesn’t seem to realize what a dangerous character he is. He’s also not sure why, when he can have almost any woman he wants, he’s so drawn to the pretty but slightly prim Meg.

Hmm, could it be because she’s quick-witted, intelligent, brave, and a genuinely good person?

And he finds it difficult to understand what Meg could possibly see in him. Hmm, could it be that he’s honorable, passionate, imaginative, and lonely?

The sexual tension fairly crackles between these two, which is a delight. It’s heightened by his insistence on flirting with her, to prove what a bad boy he is. He does it with a faintly ironic air, as if daring Meg to slap his face, and Meg is a little shocked by his boldness – but also a little intrigued. Okay, a lot intrigued.

In their search, the two move back and forth between Daffyd’s worlds – the ton and the Rom, following his complex familial connections. Not only was this a great device to develop and reveal their characters, but it also made for some highly entertaining moments. Daffyd’s excellent relationships with his gypsy and noble half-brothers take an interesting turn when each takes a shine to the lovely Meg.

In fact, it was a delightful book, from start to finish. Don’t take my word for it – go read it for yourself.

-- Judi McKee


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