His Last Best Hope

One of These Nights

The Price of Innocence

Stranger by Her Side

 
On a Long Ago Night
by Susan Sizemore
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80419-0
***
Lady Honoria Pyne, at age twenty-six, has little interest in finding a suitor, let alone a husband. Her height, her age, and her spectacles mark her as an ugly duckling of sorts, and her heart has been bruised in love. One faithless fiancé and one torrid love affair with a mysterious Spanish pirate named Diego Moresco have convinced Honoria that she's better off not marrying. After all, she's heiress to a ducal title and a fortune. The last thing she needs is to tie herself to some money-hungry aristocrat.

Honoria is in for a shock when she attends a ball given by her father and comes face-to-face with her Spanish pirate. Only he's now the Honorable James Marbury, illegitimate offspring of a viscount who is publicly acknowledging him as his son. This is a far cry from their previous relationship in Algiers, when Honoria had been his captive, then his purchased servant after her fiancé’s ship had been attacked. While this eventually led to a broken engagement and the stars falling from her eyes, it had also led to a steamy relationship of mutual attraction. Try as she might, Honoria can't forget it. And now James -- or Diego -- is intent on reclaiming his English fox, the one woman who was meant for him.

Complications arise when the ex-fiancé shows up again, clearly after Honoria's money. She doesn't want him, but perhaps he'll act as a shield between herself and James….

Susan Suzemore writes clean, tight prose that is fortunately lacking in fluff and over-description. Instead, she relies on vivid settings and sharp dialogue to bring her characters to life. Readers will enjoy delving into James' and Honoria's personalities and watching them find their way toward a lasting love.

The structure of the book may frustrate some readers, however. It's told in present -- flashback -- present -- flashback format, with the result (to this reader, anyway) that I began losing track of the story. No sooner do readers get a glimpse of Honoria and James making some progress toward re-establishing their relationship than whoops! we're back in Algiers eight years ago. By the middle of the book, I truly began to wonder why the author chose this format. This beautifully written tale was fragmenting in front of my eyes. The format obscured the story, and the story should have reigned supreme here, not taken a backseat to a literary device.

Readers will be in for a letdown at the climax, too. Without giving too much away, let's say that all the buildup to the first sexual encounter of Diego and Honoria doesn't pan out at all. This made the frustration with the structure worse, as thoughts of "all those flashback scenes for this?" rose to the fore.

Maybe this type of story format works just fine for you. If so, you are in for a treat with On a Long Ago Night. If you, like me, find too many flashbacks to be intrusive to your reading, then I suggest you skim through, read the italicized flashbacks first, then go back and read the rest. Then you'll be in for a treat, too.

--Cathy Sova


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