The Widowed Miss Mordaunt

A Love for Lydia by Jeanne Savery
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6321-0
Itís very difficult to have a successful romance when the hero and heroine spend very little time with each other. Since the heroine in Jeanne Saveryís new Regency spends most of the book avoiding the hero (however good her reasons may be), I found myself wondering exactly how and when they managed to fall in love. This is not good.

Which is too bad, because the premise on which the book was based had all sorts of potential.

Lydia Cottrellís place in life is not very secure. Her nasty, miserly stepfather has just died and she and her two half-brothers and five half-sisters are awaiting the arrival of their guardian and trustee. Since Lydia has no claim on the estate and since everyone assumes that the guardian, Lord Huntingdon, will be of the same ilk as the unmourned baronet, it is decided that Lydia will claim to be the childrenís governess. Since she has been, in truth, playing that role as well as acting as housekeeper, nursemaid, and general dogsbody since her motherís death, this deception makes sense.

But the guardian is not what they expected. The baronetís will had entrusted the guardianship of his children to the Earl of Huntingdon and two years earlier, Raphael Seymour had inherited his uncleís dignities. He has now inherited the responsibility for the Easten estate and children.

When Rafe, accompanied by two of his friends, arrives at Easten Meadows, he is puzzled by the identity of Miss Lydia Cottrell, governess. Since he was vaguely aware of her existence and since she bears a striking resemblance to her half-siblings, he wonders at her relegation to a menial position. He and his friends wonder if she is perhaps, not quite respectable. Since Rafe is immediately attracted to the lovely woman, this becomes a matter of concern. If she was perchance born on the wrong side of the blanket, then she cannot become an earlís wife. But perhaps something else?

Thus, the mystery of Miss Cottrellís identity becomes an issue. They could have asked!

Lydia makes a point of avoiding Rafe whenever possible, both because of the deception and because she mistrusts his motives. Even after her true identity is uncovered, she still avoids him. After all, an earl would never marry a woman who has no dowry. If he seems interested in her, it must be for a less than respectable purpose.

While Rafe is trying to spend time with Lydia and Lydia is trying to make herself scarce, he is also busy trying to repair the depredations of the miserly late baronet. He hires a staff, buys the children horses and ponies, begins to make repairs, arranges for new clothes. Lydia is sure that he is bankrupting her brother and becomes indignant. She could have asked!

Actually, both the hero and the heroine are nice, worthy characters who are undoubtedly well-matched, if only the reader had a better idea of how they discover their compatibility.

Savery has created a nice cast of secondary characters. She does a good job portraying the children who have been sadly mistreated by their father and who have depended on their half-sister who has provided their only love and stability since their motherís death. Astringent Aunt Eunice is the traditional maiden lady who cares more for the children than she lets on and who provides sage advice.

I liked almost everything about A Love for Lydia except the romance. There simply wasnít enough interaction between the hero and heroine. Thus, I must conclude that this is simply an acceptable romance.

--Jean Mason

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