The Admiralís Daughter
by Francesca Shaw
(Harlequin, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-51169-8
****
Ah, what would Regency authors do without the strict conventions of Regency society which required a man to do the right thing if a woman was found improperly in his company? The heroine of The Admiralís Daughter understands the conventions; she just isnít having any part of them. And this despite the very improper company she shared with Lord Adam Darvell.

A freak accident leaves Helena Wyatt adrift in a leaky rowboat in the English Channel. Most fortunately, she is rescued by Lord Adam and taken on board his yacht, the Moonspinner. But rather than return her immediately to her home and family, Lord Adam carries her off so that he can complete his business. Thus, Helena spends several days in the company of this well known rake.

Helena is no simpering miss. The daughter of a naval hero who lost his life at Trafalgar and a well-known classical scholar, she has a mind of her own. When Adam informs her that they must marry to satisfy conventions, she refuses his offer. She will have none of a forced marriage. She is also somewhat suspicious of Adam when she overhears him in conversation with a mysterious Frenchman and when the Moonspinner is boarded by the revenuers, led by Lt. Daniel Brookes of His Majestyís Navy.

After returning Helena to her mother, Adam appears to make a formal offer. To his shock and surprise, Helena remains adamant and refuses him. After all, she might have been compromised, but she is clearly not ďruined,Ē in the technical sense, however enthusiastically she may have participated in the embraces and kisses that she and Adam had shared.

So Helena goes off to London for her season, hoping to forget Lord Adam. But it is not to be; Adam is also in London and the two cannot avoid each other. When they are together, sparks fly. Lt. Brookes is also in London and is happy to court the daughter of a naval hero whose contacts will further his career. Helena cannot like the lieutenant and she has reason to fear that somehow he will make the connection between her and Lord Adam.

Shaw has created a delightful heroine in Helena, a young woman who knows her own mind. She is intelligent and brave and passionate. She occasionally acts precipitously, but never without cause. Shaw manages to convince the reader that her actions are not truly foolish.

Adam cannot get Helena out of his mind even after she rejects him. He has his own reasons for furthering his rakish reputation. He is another of those secret agent noblemen who are so common in Regency set romances. If he is of a type, he is a very good example of the type.

Shaw peoples her story with a lively cast of secondary characters, including Helenaís mother, aunt and uncle; her fashionable and somewhat flighty school friend, Portia, and of course, Lt. Brookes whose long lived enmity toward Adam poses a serious threat. She also includes a nice bit of derring-do to the mix.

All in all, The Admiralís Daughter is an entertaining Regency romance. I certainly hope that Regency fans will search out it and the other three that Harlequin published this month. I hope the response to this particular experiment - offering English-published books to the American audience - has been a success and will continue.

--Jean Mason


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