has also reviewed:

Bewitching Lady

A Royal Connection
by Margaret Summerville
(Signet Regency, $5.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19483-7
A Royal Connection lacks a connection between its lead characters that no amount of secondary interest can disguise. I found the secondary characters to be somewhat interesting, but the lead characters to be humdrum and unbelievable.

Lady Selena Paget is unmarried at the age of twenty-three. She has come to London to live with her brother and sister-in-law, a duke and duchess, and to make her entrance into Society. While attending a ball one evening, she is intrigued by the Earl of Heathfield. The earl is a notorious rake, an art fancier like her brother, and a sworn enemy of said brother since they were lads at school. (He's also referred to as "Heathfield" throughout the story, which had the effect of distancing me from his character.)

Selena pops into an unused room to give herself a rest, and finds herself in the midst of an assignation between the Earl and the married hostess of the evening. In fact, Heathfield mistakes Selena for his ladylove and grabs her. When Selena protests that she is not the woman he is waiting for, Heathfield laughs it off and suggests they find another room in which to carry on this interlude. Selena leaves in a huff.

Of course, she is also unwillingly attracted to the earl, heaven knows why, and finds herself thinking about his good looks. The earl decides he wants to get to know this young lady, the sister of his old enemy. Complications arise when the earl's cousin Max arrives from some miniscule principality and announces he intends to pursue Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Regent. Heathfield now must shepherd his cousin around London, rather than pursue the delectable Selena.

Heathfield continues to think about Selena and plots to meet her "accidentally" in the park while she is walking her dog. Selena daydreams about the earl. Max bumbles around London, aided and abetted by another cousin, Percy, and longs for the impoverished young lady he left behind. Selena's brother flies into several petulant rages and forbids her to have any contact with the earl. The story slogs on, and on.

Max's story was quite entertaining. He's a big bear of a man, kindhearted but clumsy, and I thought he was endearing. I sincerely wanted him to find a way to reunite with his love.

Selena and Heathfield, however, I could have cared less about. Here's a guy who is entertaining himself by seducing his hostess one night, and then falling head over heels for an acerbic virgin the next? Sorry, it didn't wash. For the life of me, I couldn't understand what Selena was supposed to see in this man, other than his looks. His personality seemed spoiled and selfish. It didn't say much for Selena's character that she's crudely propositioned one night, then daydreaming about the same man the next day. This after several spirited comments about marrying for love and love alone.

The other secondary characters seemed to do little other than take up space. This is a story that didn't feel like it had much of a plot or conflict to it. There are extraneous elements about jewel thieves and Scottish nursemaids, but it's all very convenient and not very cohesive. Max carried the romance, what there was of it. I sure couldn't believe in Selena or Heathfield's love affair.

Regency readers, make your own call. A Royal Connection didn't do it for me. Maybe you'll feel differently.

--Cathy Sova

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