The Bluestocking on His Knee

Catch of the Season

A Dangerous Dalliance

The Unflappable Miss Fairchild

The Incomparable Miss Compton
by Regina Scott
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6991-X
Here’s a delightful tale about two mature people who don’t really believe they can fall in love but find out they can’t help themselves. Funny, touching, and with characters that are flawed but eminently likable, The Incomparable Miss Compton is a charmer.

Malcolm, Viscount Breckonridge, is a power in Parliament. His silver-tongued speechmaking abilities and shrewd political savvy have made him one of the most respected men in England. But Malcolm needs a wife, and he has specific characteristics in mind. She must be able to find the flaws in his logic, warn him when he is about to make an ass of himself, manage a home, dress simply, and be sensible. His friends Lord and Lady Prestwick are going to help him find such a paragon. To that end, a ball is held in Malcolm’s honor at Almacks, and the pick of the Season is there.

The pick includes the latest Incomparable, Miss Persephone Compton, age seventeen. Persy attends with a chaperone, her cousin Sarah. Sarah is twenty-nine and fervently hoping that Persy chooses a husband soon so she can get on with her life and a new position teaching at a dame school. When a duke casts his eye at Persy, Sarah decides to distract Lord Breckonridge. Heaven knows the man would never suit - flighty Persy would bore him to death. The duke would be a better match.

Several dances later, Sarah and Malcolm discover they are keenly interested in each other. Malcolm finds Sarah’s sparkle and wit to be refreshing, and Sarah finds Malcolm’s political savvy and keen intellect just as intriguing. When Malcom asks if he may call at the Compton residence, Persy is thrilled. Little does she know it’s Sarah who has captured Malcolm’s eye.

But Malcolm has his work cut out for him as he quickly decides to offer for Sarah’s hand, quoting her virtues and describing the marriage partnership they will have. A shock is in store. Sarah turns him down flat. If there’s no love involved, she wants no part of it. Now Malcolm, whose honeyed tongue can raise Parliament into an uproar, finds he is clueless about courtship. How best to win Sarah? And what shall he do about her idealistic notions of love?

This book was fun from beginning to end. Let’s start with Sarah. Her relationship with her young cousin is quite a bit less than subservient, and when Persy needs a stern reminder and some firm guidance, Sarah is up to the task. This core of strength is neatly embedded in Sarah’s character, and her actions are always true to form. Ahh, consistency in a heroine, thou art a virtue!

Malcolm is equally delightful as he fumbles his way into Sarah’s heart. Using the “more is more” theory, he starts with roses. If a dozen is good, how about six dozen? Candies? Two boxes, minimum. By the time Malcolm decides to back off a bit, Sarah is well on her way to forgiving him. Then the story takes off as they truly get to know one another. This is a romance a reader can believe in.

Even Persy is given an unusual amount of depth for a secondary character. She is spoiled and self-indulgent, but her core of sweetness is allowed to shine through at a crucial point. A less-adept author might have taken the low road and used Persy as a plot wedge between Sarah and Malcolm, but here it’s not allowed to happen, which was a relief and an enjoyable change.

The book did seem to drag a bit in the middle, and some judicious trimming of the sections involving Malcolm and his avaricious manservant might have allowed it to move along faster. But that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise enjoyable read.

The Incomparable Miss Compton glows with warmth and romance. Regina Scott delivers another winner for Regency readers.

--Cathy Sova

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