Beauty & the Badge

Bride of Trouville

Down to the Wire

The Highland Wife

In Harm's Way

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Live-In Lover

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My Lady's Choice

The Quest

The Scot

The Wilder Wedding

The Viscount by Lyn Stone
(Harl. Hist. #747, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29347-X
It’s been a while since I enjoyed a historical romance as much as I enjoyed The Viscount. Two lively lead characters, acting like adults; no contrived misunderstandings; and a marriage of convenience that becomes much more, to the delight of both. The post-Regency setting is a bonus.

The year is 1859. Widow Lily Bradshaw wakes up in a dark, stinking cell only to overhear two men plotting to take her to an insane asylum. The last thing Lily remembers is drinking sherry with her brother-in-law, Clive, after a morning’s ride. Suspecting he’s trying to have her committed to gain control of her son, Beau, and the family fortune, Lily plots her escape. The heel of her heavy riding boot does enough damage to a guard to allow her to dress in his clothes and slip out.

The two men mentioned Lord Dusquesne, a man with whom Lily shares an acquaintance, though they haven’t seen each other in years. Guy Dusquesne is beyond the pale of Society; he’s rumored to deal with shady characters to earn his money. For all that, Lily trusts him and is relieved to know he’s in London, where he might be able to help her. Guy is actually supporting his invalid father, whose lunatic fits require a constant caretaker. When Lily appears, Guy is soon convinced she’s telling the truth about her kidnapping. Lily, desperate to safeguard her son, offers Guy a substantial sum of money if he will become her husband and give her legal protection against Clive.

The bargain is struck, and Lily and Guy are off to Lily’s estate. Seven-year-old Beau is no match for his scheming uncle and avaricious grandmother, but Guy’s presence puts a damper on their nastiness. Guy and Beau come to terms and begin a cautious relationship, and Guy and Lily explore the possibilities in their marriage. Then Lily has several delirious “episodes.” Is she truly losing her mind, as Clive seems to believe?

Readers won’t be particularly surprised by the resolution to this mystery, but it’s handled with a certain inventiveness that keeps it from feeling shopworn. What feels quite fresh is the enthusiasm with which Guy and Lily embark on the physical side of their marriage. Legally wed, these two enthusiastically decide to make the best of it, and Guy finds that he can, indeed, lose his heart. Lily, for her part, finds the passion her first marriage lacked. They’re quite delightful.

It’s much to Lyn Stone’s credit that she can weave her way through this plot without having to resort to a Big Misunderstanding to drive the couple apart. How refreshing! The only flaw was in the sometimes modern-sounding dialogue, and several small improbabilities, such as Lily making a twelve-hour journey dressed in men’s clothes, riding astride for no doubt the first time, and not only looking like she’d been “born in the saddle” but having nary a twinge of discomfort afterward. Somehow, I doubt this.

But The Viscount has a lot to recommend it, and gets my enthusiastic endorsement. If you love historical romance, this one’s a real treat!

--Cathy Sova

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