This is a novel that was first published in 2000 and has now been re-released by Carina Press. It is a delightful historical that deserves a new audience and which is a wonderful addition to the historical romance genre.
Chelsea's brother has been kidnapped on his way to the European continent, preparing to enter the Napoleonic War. He has lived "high on the hog" in his first years as a young adult and he has managed to begger the family, emptying the family coffers at an alarming rate. Chelsea has used the last of the family's resources to purchase his commission, and is now devastated to learn that she has nothing to meet the ransom demand. What she also does not know is that the entire fiasco has been arranged in order to put her in desperate straits--so desperate that she will sell herself, body and soul, to the perpetrator.
Along comes Lord Anthony, a man destined to marry and who is traveling with his fiance and her mother. He is bored to tears, knowing he has no alternative for the sake of his title to produce an heir, and accepting the fact that an arranged, loveless marriage is the norm. His bride is certainly not hard on the eyes, but she has no desire to be a true wife to him, other than meeting her wifely obligation to produce a child. His advances are met with shock and a determination to avoid physical interaction unless absolutely necessary--after the wedding. It is during this boring journey that the passengers hear the report of a pistol--"stand and deliver"-- and are robbed of their belonging, jewels, etc. The two highwaymen are obviously not of the same generation, and Lord Anthony suspects that one of them is a woman. He is quite right--he has discerned Chelsea's descent into crime in order to obtain the funds she needs for her brother's ransom.
This is a complicated story that includes the rather jumbled relationship of Lord Anthony with his fiance while he battles his attraction to Chelsea. He must keep his suspicions about her criminal activity quiet--he wants her in the worst way--while putting up with her resistance to his advances. He knows the date for his wedding approaches but he is busy working very hard to find her brother so that she can escape having to pay the ransom. There are lots of twists and turns here, and the impasse between the fiance he doesn't want and the woman he does want is resolved in a very surprising way. I was certainly not prepared for that particular solution.
I found this novel to be a very enjoyable read, one that was an engaging journey into the world of Regency England, and which satisfied my love of historical romance. The characters were fun and very real, complicated, flawed, full of normal emotions and the feelings we all must bear. It is a novel that celebrates family loyalty, the strength of true friendship, and the worth of one's own values. It is about good and evil and the struggle to act within one's own moral code. Lovers of historical romance will find this a very good read and one that educates the mind as it entertains. Ms Tarr demonstrates excellent writing skill as she builds this story on good historical research. I felt it was well worth the time investment. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.
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