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A Rose in Scotland

Exquisite by Joan Overfield
(Zebra, $.50, G) ISBN 0-8217-5894-2
Rachel Manvers is a Regency artist who loves to paint portraits but dabbles in sculpture by making copies of an antique Roman head. When she discovers that her dissolute uncle has been selling her copies off as the real thing, she is a little put out. But when she discovers that one of her "heads" has wound up in the hands of Nicholas Woodward, the Marquis of Stanton, she panics.

Nicholas is an expert on Roman antiquities and is sure to know that the bust is a fake. So Rachel sneaks into his home to replace the fake with the real thing and, wouldn't you know it, almost gets caught by the Marquis himself. All that happens though is that Rachel gets accidentally felt-up before a well-placed bonk on Nicholas' head allows her to escape.

What Rachel doesn't realize is that Nicholas is involved with trying to discover the identity of a murderous band of thieves who are currently helping themselves to numerous Roman collections. Shortly after his midnight "meeting" with Rachel, he is introduced to the beautiful young artist and commissions her to paint his mother's portrait. When his undercover investigation foils an attempt on Rachel's life and compromises her virtue, the two submit to a hasty marriage. Not that either of them really mind, of course. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings ultimately lead to happily ever after.

For reasons I can't entirely communicate, this book bored me. Perhaps it was the pervasive feeling that everything I was reading I had read before. I made no connection with the characters. I found nothing original in their thoughts, feelings, or actions. The heroine was surprisingly mundane for an artist, and the hero just downright bland. The passion between the two seemed to come from nowhere.

Maybe it was the subplot involving Roman antiquities. As historically accurate as the author may have been in her descriptions of these items and the interest Regency era aristocrats held on the subject matter, it failed to illicit even a remote response in me. The plot seemed to drag on to an inevitable conclusion, and I guessed who the bad guy was about a third of the way through.

Though there is a delicate quality to the author's style which I often admire, I found myself wishing she would, for lack of a better phrase, "mix it up" a little. There was nothing here I could sink my teeth into.

--Ann McGuire

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