How The Rogue Stole Christmas
by Rosemary Stevens
(Fawcett, $4.99, G) ISBN: 0-449-00199-7
Rosemary Stevens writes pleasant and entertaining Regencies and How the Rogue Stole Christmas is no exception. She has a nice feel for the period, provides a well developed love story, peoples her story with engaging secondary characters, and adds a dollop of suspense as well.

Lady Margery Fortescue has not had good luck at Christmas. Three years earlier, the season saw her elopement to Scotland which led to her being disowned by her father. A year later, her husband Simon drank himself to death, leaving her impoverished and, given the unsatisfactory nature of her marriage, insecure about her own attractiveness. And last year her beloved cat had died.

But Margery is determined that this year will be different. Even though she and her former nurse have been reduced to living in a small country cottage, they will celebrate the holiday and enjoy themselves. But Rosemary will not accept the kind invitation of Lady Altham to a Christmas house party. Rosemary does not want anything to do with the social scene. And then the roof of the cottage collapses, and off they go.

Jordan, Viscount Reckford (known as "Reckless") has no intention of accepting Lady Altham's invitation to the same party. But when his young friend Lord Harry gets into still more trouble during his first excursion to London, Jordan decides that some time in the country would be good for his protege.

Thus, both Margery and Jordan are somewhat reluctantly on the road to the same destination when the weather takes a hand. Sleet leads both parties to stop at the same ramshackle inn, and when Margery makes her way to the kitchen to get wash water, the two come face to face. Jordan assumes that the lovely young woman in the flannel nightgown is a maid and steals a kiss. Margery is affronted (and surprisingly effected by said kiss) and announces that she is no maid to be trifled with but rather a lady. When the landlord suggests that lady has perhaps been compromised, Jordan (to his surprise), offers marriage. Margery disdainfully refuses and leaves early the next morning, expecting never to see the rogue again.

But then they meet at Lady Altham's party.

As you can see, Stevens has set up her story nicely. Both have had bad experiences with marriage. Margery's husband had never touched her; Jordan's wife had died of her excess, excesses he felt he should have controlled. The two are attracted to each other, but Margery wonders about Jordan's intentions and Jordan fears to ever again be responsible for another person's happiness.

Surrounding the love story are a number of well done subplots. Will Lady Altham continue to ignore her worthy suitor in pursuit of a false sense of youth and romance? Will Lady Altham's granddaughter and Lord Harry, busy sparring with each other, realize that they are in the throes of young love? Will the dishonest steward get his comeuppance.? Will the beauteous Lovely Lily Carruthers, a widow with designs of one sort of another on Jordan's person and purse, impede the path of true love?

All in all, How the Rogue Stole Christmas is a perfectly acceptable Regency romance. If it doesn't have that certain something that sets it apart from the pack and leads to a recommendation, it nonetheless provides the Regency fan with an enjoyable read. Stevens does the Regency well. (OK, is this the place where I raise the burning issue, discussed over and over, as to whether there were Christmas trees in Regency England?) Another author we will miss when Fawcett discontinues its Regency line.

--Jean Mason

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