The Bride's Protector

Heart of the Night

Her Baby, His Secret

His Secret Duchess

Honor's Bride

The Stranger She Knew

Lady Sarah's Son by Gayle Wilson
(Harlequin Hist. #483, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29083-7
The main conflict in Lady Sarah's Son is a bit difficult to accept, but the pacing of this romance is excellent. And the characters are so engaging that I found myself quickly and easily caught up in their story.

Lady Sarah Spenser watches her sister die giving birth to an illegitimate son, Andrew. The shame her sister felt at having a child out of wedlock was so great that on her deathbed she made Sarah promise to never reveal the secret of Andrew's birth to anyone.

Sarah willingly gives her promise to care for Andrew and to never divulge the circumstances of his birth. But Sarah's promise costs dearly with the loss of her reputation and her beloved fiancÚ, Justin, Earl of Wynfield. Everyone believes that Andrew is Sarah's love child, including Justin. Sarah refuses to share her shame with Justin, who's been off fighting Napoleon while Andrew was conceived; she writes to tell him she's calling off their engagement.

Four years later Justin returns to England, having lost part of his leg in battle. However, he's not bitter, he feels lucky to be alive, even though he experiences a good deal of pain. Upon returning home, Justin finds his estate, which neighbors Sarah's, is deeply in debt. He suffers because he can't do more for his tenants, whose homes are in desperate need of repairs.

When Justin happens upon a four-year-old boy being beaten by bullies, who taunt him for his illegitimate birth, Justin intervenes and instantly becomes Andrew's hero. Justin can't help liking the plucky boy even though he finds the child's existence hard to accept. Sarah realizes that Andrew needs someone like Justin in his life: someone strong to look up to, someone who will make sure society accepts Andrew.

Sarah still cares for Justin but when she sees him again she realizes they've both changed over the years, and that he still believes she betrayed their love. For Andrew's sake, Sarah decides to swallow her pride; she proposes to Justin. He may not want her love but Sarah knows she can give Justin all the money he needs to care for his tenants.

The conflict in Lady Sarah's Son is centered on the dreaded "Big Misunderstanding." Should a deathbed promise that protects the dead but hurts the living be kept? Should Andrew be deprived of a loving family because of a deathbed promise? No, of course not. Sarah should trust Justin with her sister's secret.

However, I liked this romance despite the "Big Misunderstanding." In addition, a better conflict involving Justin's biological father is included towards the end of the story.

For the most part, the characters are intelligent, engaging and extremely easy to care for. I found myself rooting for Justin and Sarah to overcome their baggage and find their way back to one another. Certainly, romance readers will be rooting for Andrew, Sarah and Justin to become a loving family.

--Judith Flavell

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