Tired of the same old, same old? You know what I mean: stories set
somewhere in England sometime in the 19th century. Then perhaps you
ought to give Andrea Pickensí unusual Regency romance a try. Yes, the
hero and heroine are English and yes, the book begins and ends in Merrie
Old England. But for most of the story, we find ourselves in the
vastness of Russia during Napoleonís invasion.
How did a nice English lady and a not-so-nice English gentleman find
themselves in such a godforsaken spot? Therein lies the tale.
Octavia Hadley is a familiar heroine, the penniless woman at the not so
tender mercies of her relatives. When she effectively discourages the
attentions of her cousinís husband with a well-placed knee to the groin,
she finds herself exiled to Moscow to serve as governess to the relative
of a British diplomat assigned to the city.
Alexander Sheffield is his noble familyís black sheep. Blamed -
unfairly - for the accident that killed his older brother, he has tried
to live down to his familyís expectations and succeeded very nicely.
Now his family needs him; a young cousin, a Russian nobleman, has been
orphaned and his English mother wrote before her own death to her
relatives to protect her son from his evil uncle. So Alexander finds
himself on his way to Russia, perhaps because he wants to prove to that
he is not the wastrel he and everyone else believes him to be.
Octavia and Alexander meet one night on the ship. A storm has brought
back memories of the sailing accident that took his brotherís life and
Alexander has sought relief in drinking. When Octavia encounters him,
she is able to see past his boorish behavior to the man who needs
comfort. But she avoids Alexander thereafter.
Octavia goes off to Moscow where she meets her charge, Emma, a bright
young girl who has been sadly neglected by those who should be caring
for her. Her employers are called to St. Petersburg (or perhaps they
are aware that Moscow is in danger) and leave Octavia and Emma to face
the threat of the French alone. The two flee the city, only to face
equal peril on the road.
Alexander locates his cousin but the threat to Nicholasí life is still
real. The two must likewise flee through the early Russian winter.
Alexanderís and Octaviaís paths cross again, just in time for him to
save her and Emma from the villains who are all too happy to take
advantage of two lone women. There is no course other than for the four
to join together to try to make their way to safety.
As you can well imagine, the little group faces innumerable perils, from
Nicholasí uncle, from the weather, from the French. All four show great
courage, pluck and intelligence in thwarting these dangers. Alexander
and Octavia come to admire each other. They discover they share the
same interests, that they like each other, and perhaps that they are
beginning to love each other. But there are forces driving them apart.
What makes The Storybook Hero so compelling is Pickensí depiction
of the dangers the party faced. One can almost feel the bone-chilling
cold of the autumn snows and sense the dangers that pursue them. One
can also perceive how these dangers led Alexander and Octavia towards love.
The Storybook Hero is a real page turner. It offers exciting
adventure and an entertaining romance. It demonstrates that, even
within the constraints of the Regency romance, a talented author can
move beyond the limits that seem to have become commonplace in the
romance genre. So if you are looking for something a bit different,
give The Storybook Hero a try.