What a Woman Needs

A View to a Kiss
by Caroline Linden
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-06-170635-6
Caroline Linden's debut novel for Avon features a commoner hero and an impulsive aristocratic heroine. The latter is rather commonplace in the Regency romance genre, the former is rarer. Not surprisingly, he makes the book.

Harry Sinclair works for the British government as a spy. Thanks to his skills in disguise, he introduces himself into the best houses and keeps his eyes open for treacherous dealings and intrigue against the crown. Harry has no scruples about using his good-looks and seductive techniques to get to the truth. Until the night when he falls in deeply and desperately in love with Mariah Dunmore, the daughter of one of three aristocrats under investigation.

The only child of doting parents, Mariah is in London to have her season and look for a husband. None of the noblemen paraded in front of her interest her. Then, one night, she steps onto a dark, moonless terrace and falls head over heels for a mysterious voice. Harry, as he calls himself, refuses to show his face and reveal his true identity. And although he tempts Mariah's romantic soul with nighttime visits to her room, he refuses to call by day. She decides to unmask him, little suspecting that his lowly rank and professional status make him a thoroughly ineligible match.

In the meantime, Harry suffers the pangs of a bad conscience: he knows that there can be no future for him and Mariah, and yet he cannot stop climbing up the ivy and into her room.

There is something thoroughly romantic in Harry's desperate love for a woman he is certain he cannot have. Unfortunately, I am not convinced Mariah deserves his attention. She is too flighty, too cosseted, and too immature for his deep-felt attraction. It is not so much the improbable likelihood that a well-brought up young lady would allow a perfect stranger to climb into her bedroom window that bothers me, even if this certainly brands her as imprudent and foolishly headstrong. It is more the fact that Mariah has not seen enough of life to appreciate exactly who and what Harry is. Nor does she grow up significantly in the course of the book.

On the plus side, Harry and Mariah do spend a good deal of time talking, and their exchanges are agreeable and even moving to read. In spite of the illicit nature of their rendezvous, they do not indulge in any serious physical activity until well into the book. This surprised me somewhat, but it is fitting with the characters and their needs.

The suspense story, meager and unconvincing as it is, does not make up for the half-hearted romance. Events are resolved too quickly, without any convincing suggestion about what is to come. This simple solution significantly limited at least this reader's satisfaction.

All in all, A View to a Kiss is an adequate read which nevertheless promises much better things. So although I cannot recommend it much higher, I nevertheless look forward to other Caroline Linden productions.  

--Mary Benn

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