Lord Langdon's Tutor
by Laura Paquet
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6675-9
Debut author Laura Paquet acquits herself admirably in Lord Langdon's Tutor. Lady Clarissa Denham wants to marry for love. Her own parents suffered through a loveless marriage and are now officially separated, maintaining separate residences. Such a marriage is not for her. But her father, in financial straits, has promised her hand to Matthew Carstairs, Lord Langdon a man Clarissa has never met. If she refuses Lord Langdon, Clarissa will be sent to live with an aunt in the wilds of Yorkshire. Either way, there will be one less mouth to feed.

Clarissa, anticipating a middle-aged lecher, is surprised to find that Lord Langdon is young, good-looking, and intelligent. He's also abrupt, and within thirty seconds of introducing himself, proposes marriage. Stung, Clarissa turns him down, to Matthew's astonishment. After all, he's taken time out from his business in the House of Lords to find a young woman of respectable breeding and make a marriage arrangement wither father. What more does the chit want?

Plenty, you fathead, is his friend Spencer's sage advice. She wants to be courted, he explains. Matthew is nonplussed. He knows nothing of courting. How is he supposed to find a wife if he doesn't know how to woo her? Then inspiration strikes. Perhaps Lady Clarissa will give him some lessons on how to impress a young lady. Then he can find a wife and get back to the more pressing concerns in the House of Lords.

In order to stave off her father, who doesn't yet know she has turned Matthew down, Clarissa agrees to the deception. But what will happen when these two intelligent, stubborn people really get to know each other?

Clarissa and Matthew are characters perfectly suited to this kind of tale. Both are adults, and approach their dilemma with an adult perspective that's exactly right for this story. No missish tears for Clarissa, no lordly, arrogant declarations for Matthew. Instead, readers will be carried along with these two as they discover that first impressions can be terribly misleading, and that in order to find a perfect match, sometimes you have to look right under your nose.

The secondary characters add spice to the story without taking over center stage. Clarissa's younger sister, Lucy, is wise in the way that only youth can be, viewing events with a clarity that escapes Clarissa. Spencer offers sound advice and isn't afraid to stand up to his wealthier, more titled friend. Spencer is the third in a set of sons, and his relish at the thought of not having to deal with a title is refreshing in itself. He'd make a divine hero for his own regency romance, and I couldn't help mentally pairing him with Lucy.

A foppish poet who is up to no good and an Incomparable with her eye on Matthew's estate round out the cast. They move the story along without getting in the way of the developing romance.

And if the story seemed to drag just a bit in the middle, well, it's a minor complaint. Lord Langdon's Tutor is a lively, intelligent Regency by a sparkling new addition to the genre. Regency needs more stories like this.

--Cathy Sova

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