A Kiss for Lucy by Mona Prevel
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6996-0
A Kiss for Lucy is quite possibly the dullest Regency I've ever read. Flat characters and 250 pages of nothing interesting doom it to one-heart status. Not only that, but the publisher can't quite seem to decide who wrote it. The name on the cover is Mona Prevel; the name on every page of the galley is Mona Gedney. At any rate, the book is problematic right from the start.

Lucy Garwood is the orphaned daughter of a seamstress and a highwayman. Upon her father's death, she was helped by a friend named Mickey, a con man who aspired to become a stablehand and make a better life for himself. With Mickey's help, Lucy received an education in the classics from a retired Oxford professor, one of their neighbors in the shabby tenement. Then Lucy discovered she was the poor relation of a wealthy, titled family. Brought to live with the family of the Marquess of Northwycke, Lucy find she looks a lot like Lady Maude, who is exactly one year older.

Maude insists that Lucy stay with the family and act as her companion. They travel to London for shopping with Maude's imperious mother, and Maude is spied by Robert Renquist, the Duke of Linborough. Robert's mother is pressuring him to court Lady Maude. Robert promises himself that he'll do so at the chit's next Season, and mulls over his attraction to her, deciding it's because he's between mistresses at the moment. He manages to speak with Lady Maude, and is somewhat taken aback by the skinny companion who challenges his views on orphans and chimneysweeps.

The story plods on. Maude and Lucy, who is no longer skinny, spend time at the Northwycke estate, where Lucy decides she has no need to marry - she'll work at a foundling home when she's old enough. A male relative comes to call and takes a mild interest in Lucy. Maude returns to London for her Season and Robert's interest is piqued by her tall beauty. Maude falls in love with a viscount. Robert's mother advises him to kiss Maude so she'll fall in love with him. Robert invites Maude to his estate, where he mistakes Lucy for Maude and kisses her, instead. Eventually he discovers his mistake, decides he's in love with Lucy, begs her to marry him, and she refuses. Maude is still in love with the viscount, who might be off getting engaged to someone else.

Not only does the story proceed at a snail's pace, but none of the characters are more than one-dimensional cutouts. Robert is twenty-seven and Lucy is sixteen. Right there readers may feel uncomfortable, but rest assured, Robert acts like a callow youth most of the time. He sneers at Lucy's bluestocking poor-relation status, but once he kisses her, he feels undying passion, so decides he loves her. Lucy wanders around pining for Robert, yet decides she can't possibly marry him because her family was inconsequential. The fact that he's a duke and nobody would dare gainsay him doesn't even register. There just isn't enough conflict here to build a 250 page book.

Robert also came across as a bit thick. He has no trouble telling Maude and Lucy apart and makes frequent comments on Lucy's scrawniness. Yet when he comes across Lucy singing in the rose arbor, he kisses her without a thought and can't tell she's not Maude. Huh? Mistaken-identity stories can work just fine, but not when they depend on a character's stupidity to make them work.

I just can't recommend spending your money on A Kiss for Lucy. Other, more interesting, Regencies await.

--Cathy Sova

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