Anneís Wish/A>

Catherine's Promise

Lord Caldwell & the Cat

Miss Chambers Takes Charge

Lord Desmondís Destiny
by Joy Reed
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7232-5
Lord Desmond Ryder is having a tough day. Heís on his way to a fete, where heíll meet up with the woman he adores, the flighty Miss Annabelle Windibank. Heís already proposed to Annabelle several times, and been held at armsí length. This time, sheíll agree to marry him. The rumors about her - that sheís holding out for a richer man - must be untrue. And sheís not coarse and vulgar. Sheís just high-spirited and inexperienced with the ways of polite society. Right? Desmond nearly has himself convinced.

Fate steps in to thwart Desmond, however. First, a little girl begs him to get her kitten out of a tree, earning him several scratches and mussing his clothes. Then an old lady needs his help to get her vegetable cart unstuck. Finally, Desmond is on his way - only to be stopped by a runaway bride carrying a small chest. She begs him to help her flee from an unwanted marriage, and Desmond, resigned, agrees to escort her to London.

Miss Susan Doyle is about to be trapped into marriage to a loathsome cousin. Sheís alone in the world and afraid sheíll be followed, so Susan and Desmond come up with a daring plan. She will stay at his house, under disguise as ďMiss Chloe de HavillandĒ, and pretend to be Desmondís country cousin. Red-haired Susan dons a black wig, applies a bit of powder, and with Desmondís help, is ready to tackle the ton.

But what will happen when Annabelle gets wind of this? And the longer Desmond is in Susanís delightful company, the less he cares what Annabelle thinks. Certainly Susan is an Incomparable, no matter what color her hair is. Susan, however, thinks Desmond prefers her as Chloe - a subterfuge she canít keep up forever.

Thereís an interesting character arc in Lord Desmondís Destiny, and it belongs to Desmond. He starts out as a bland, rather prim man, determined to do things properly. When he becomes involved with Susan, simply because itís the decent thing to do, she turns his world upside down and makes him re-examine his beliefs about what he needs. Simply put, Desmond lightens up and becomes a hero in the process. In doing so, he learns to deal with the scheming Annabelle, in a completely satisfying way for the reader.

Susanís interactions with Desmond are warmhearted and sincere. Sheís fully aware of the favor heís doing for her, and having been surrounded by an aunt and cousin who only wanted to use her for her inheritance, this gentle man who asks nothing of her and only wants to help amazes her. Desmond does a nice turn as an unlikely knight in shining armor. Their mutual attraction is perfectly believable.

My only quibble, and itís minor, is that the climax felt forced. Susan makes a few unwarranted assumptions, and it felt contrived to drive them apart for a while.

Lord Desmondís Destiny is a charming Regency with a wonderful, lovable hero. Readers will definitely enjoy Desmondís story as he meets and wins the woman of his dreams.

--Cathy Sova

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