The Key

Lady Pirate

The Reluctant Reformer

The Switch

What She Wants by Lynsay Sands
(Leisure, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 08439-5045-5
What She Wants is a fine read. Sweet and funny, this historical romance also contains a bit of a mystery concerning the heroine, Willa.

Hugh Dulonget is a poor knight who becomes fifth earl of Hillcrest when his uncle dies. Not only has his uncle left him a title and an estate, he's also left Hugh a fiancÚ. Hugh is less than thrilled at the idea of marrying a woman he believes is an uneducated peasant and quite probably the illegitimate daughter of his uncle. Hugh decides he will not marry Willa, but he will care for her and find her a husband.

Meeting Willa and seeing that she is beautiful and well spoken does not lessen Hugh's resentment against his arranged marriage. He tells Willa he doesn't want to marry her and why.

Willa is a sweet and loving young woman who has been raised in isolation but is educated and a lady. Willa is hurt by Hugh's rejection, but she has her pride. She tells Hugh she will be fine and doesn't need anything from him. Hugh quickly discovers that she is right. Hugh's uncle has given Willa all his money. Hugh must marry Willa or he won't be able to support his new estate.

Hugh feels more comfortable as a soldier than as a suitor. And he knows that he has treated Willa badly. He wants to make amends, but he isn't sure how. Hugh wants to give Willa what she wants but he has no idea where to start.

Hugh receives all kinds of advice from well meaning friends but decides that the best way to convince Willa to be his wife is to remain a stoic guard over her cottage until she changes her mind and agrees to marry him. Hugh is surprised when his romantic gesture saves Willa from being attacked by an unknown assailant.

Hugh becomes determined to discover the mystery of Willa's birth and who would want to hurt her. He's starting to care for Willa; he's also feeling guilty because he knows the only reason anyone even knows Willa exists is because of all the fuss he made about (not) marrying her.

Willa has been coached by her uncle to think of Hugh as the man of her dreams. Being tenderhearted, she would probably be willing to forgive Hugh his initial rejection. However, Eada, Willa's devoted guardian and town witch, informs Willa that she cannot take Hugh back until and unless he crawls to her. If she forgives him before this happens, then Hugh will die.

In What She Wants Ms. Sands gives romance readers a lot of what they want. Charming, funny and very human characters. The hero makes mistakes and gets a boil on his butt, but (thank goodness) he's not stupid. Hugh learns from his mistakes and quickly realizes what a prize he gave up when he rejected Willa.

And the author is smart enough and good enough not to let her story get bogged down by misunderstandings between the hero and heroine. The romance moves along at a nice pace and the mystery of Will's birth keeps readers guessing as to how the story will end.

--Judith Flavell

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