The Temporary Duke
by Melinda McRae
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19577-9
****
Melinda McRae has been absent from Regencies for a while and I, for one, am delighted to have her back. I have always thought she had a real talent for the short, intense Regency and she demonstrates this fact in her latest book, The Temporary Duke.

Adrian Stamford first becomes aware of his uncanny resemblance to the Duke of Alston when they accidentally meet in a posting house. Even Alston's friends couldn't tell them apart. Four years later, Alston's uncle arrives at Adrian's doorstep with a strange proposition. The Duke is overdue in returning from a trip to Switzerland and his absence might mean that the Duke's betrothal to Lady Juliet might fall through with disastrous effects on the family fortune. The uncle asks Adrian to pretend to be the duke, suggesting that it is a matter of patriotic duty.

Thus, this Latin teacher and archeologist is thrust into the ducal shoes. Adrian is whisked away to a hunting box, where Alston's sister Lady Rosemary is waiting to prepare him for his role. Thus, two opposites meet and we all know about the attraction of opposites.

Actually, McRae does a fine job detailing how the two come to fall in love. Rosemary is forced to examine her life and her preconceptions as she meets a man who actually is enthusiastic about his study of pre-Roman Britain. For his part, Adrian comes to understand the limitations that accompany high rank and position and to admire the woman behind the facade.

I really didn't know how McRae was going to handle the disparity in their rank and fortune. Was he going to turn out to be a long lost duke or was the author going to eschew such an easy out? I am not sure that the ending that McRae offered is historically plausible, but it was romantically satisfying. And after all, we are dealing in romance here.

McRae has a firm grasp of the nuances of Regency society and we watch Adrian navigate the dangerous waters of imposture with our fingers crossed. Seeing the world of the ton through Adrian's eyes points up its shallowness and gradually Rose does begin to see her life through less than rose colored glasses. Her transformation is completely believable. Adrian is a very nice hero; one can understand why Rose comes to feel the way she does.

All in all, The Temporary Duke is a completely enjoyable Regency romance. I hope Ms. McRae will regularly turn her talents to writing Regencies; she does it so well.

--Jean Mason


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