Private Arrangements
by Sherry Thomas
(Bantam, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0440244318
*****
I have a number of friends who have drifted away from romance novels in the past few years. They cite a variety of reasons: they're just not into fantasy and it's all vampires now; they're tired of contemporary romances with ditzy heroines; romantic suspense is now mostly suspense with very little romance; historical romances are all the same - you know, Regency historicals with an arrogant duke who doesn't trust women because his wife/lover/mother did him wrong and a cat burglar/governess/penniless waif who changes his mind.

To those romance readers who have strayed I have a message: I have the book for you. Private Arrangements may be the best historical romance you'll read in a very long time, certainly the best I've read in years. And the historical romance genre is definitely not dead.

Camden Saybrook, Marquis of Tremaine, returns from New York City to Victorian (not Regency!) England in response to his wife's divorce petition. Camden and his wife Gigi were married, had a spectacular wedding night and parted the next day over, not a Big Misunderstanding but what Camden considers unforgivable actions by Gigi. For the past ten years they have resided on separate continents.

Victorian society considers the Tremaine marriage a perfect one - it's civil, courteous and they both have their freedom. To the aristocrats of this era, for a husband and wife to be madly in love is considered a bit lower class.

So Gigi is shocked when her civil, courteous husband tells her that he will give her a divorce, but only after she gives him an heir. Gigi has no choice but to give in to Camden's demands (although she has a few tricks up her sleeve) and keep Lord Frederick, her devoted fiance, in the dark about her renewed relationship with her husband.

At the same time Gigi's mother is working on her own plans for her daughter's future and only a duke (or a future duke) will do. And all of Victorian society is watching Lord and Lady Tremaine very closely to see what happens to this "perfect" marriage.

Sherry Thomas' captivating debut novel will leave readers breathless. Intelligent, witty, sexy and peopled with wonderful characters (heck, I even liked sweet, vague Freddy!) and sharp, clever dialogue, Private Arrangements is everything astute readers want in their historical romances.

Gigi is a terrific heroine who makes some bad choices but for all the right reasons. And Camden ranks right up there with Jamie Fraser as a hero for the ages. As a bonus readers get a secondary romance between Gigi's mother and an aging rake that is very nearly as enticing as her daughter's.

So if you've worried (as I have) about the future of historical romance, just remember two words: Sherry Thomas. Readers, don't miss this one. It's a keeper and be very thankful that historical romance has a new, shining star.

--Dede Anderson


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