Catherine's Promise

Lord Caldwell & the Cat

Miss Chambers Takes Charge

Anne's Wish

The Baron and the Bluestocking
by Joy Reed
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7231-7
Miss Elizabeth Watson, upon the death of her scholarly father, has carried out his final project and published a book about the Second Punic War. The book is a success, and Elizabeth is astounded when a solicitor arrives on her doorstep one morning with the news that an elderly bachelor has died and left her a fortune in admiration of her work. Elizabeth’s hen-witted mother and younger sister are pleased as punch. Mama can have all the gowns she wants, and Sophia can pretend enough interest in a Season to keep Mama happy. Hopefully after a Season, Sophia can marry the man she truly loves, an impoverished vicar.

Julius, Lord Atwater, is puzzled as to why his elderly uncle would leave his fortune to a perfect stranger, but he’s more than happy to uphold the conditions of the will. His ne’er-do-well cousin, Gilbert, and his avaricious aunt are determined to prove that Elizabeth is nothing more than a strumpet and a fortune-hunter. Julius decides to visit the mysterious Miss Watson and see for himself. He is struck by her intelligence and beauty (aren’t they always?) and begins to fall in love with her.

Elizabeth, for her part, is deeply suspicious of Julius, even when given little ground to feel that way. Julius admires her work and is polite. He visits, takes her for drives in the park, is attentive. Ergo, he must be up to something, and he should be politely snubbed. This continues for much of the book, and when Elizabeth finally decides to be friendly toward Julius in the park one day, he is somewhat distant, being with another young lady at the time. Elizabeth’s reaction?

How dare he pass her by without a word, when she had already prepared herself to speak to him? It was rude and intolerable behavior, and Elizabeth could not approve it at all.

Spare me from tiresome Regency brats like this. Grow up, Elizabeth, and Julius, find yourself another miss to be infatuated with.

The book plods along, with little in the way of romantic tension between these two mismatched characters. Julius is quite a gentleman, and certainly doesn’t deserve Elizabeth’s scorn and contempt. By the time Julius admits he loves Elizabeth and wishes to marry her, Elizabeth has regressed in maturity to the point where she denies all her feelings and then does something incredibly stupid in defiance. That was the final straw as far as this reader was concerned. I did finish the book, but only out of grim determination.

The secondary characters - the shrewish aunt, the loutish cousin, the indolent marquess who is also after Elizabeth - are stock at best. Once Elizabeth gets her hands on the money, she begins a campaign of one-upmanship against the aunt that takes on petty overtones, though some of these scenes are amusing. Her complete inability to see that Julius is a kind and decent man simply killed any sympathy for her.

The Baron and the Bluestocking is an annoying, unbelievable romance that could have been delightful if the heroine had shown more maturity and introspection. As it stands, the gentlemanly hero alone isn’t enough to carry the book. Not recommended.

--Cathy Sova

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