Fun and frequently hilarious, Regency romance with an amnesia plot
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: November 26, 2008
Pages: 370 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Sterling Harlow, the seventh Duke of Devonbrooke, has spent the past 11 years, since his 17th birthday, fighting Napoleon on the continent. Soon after his return, he learns of the death of his estranged mother, whom he has ignored for the past 20 years, ever since she and his father sold him at the vulnerable age of seven to the vicious old sixth Duke of Devonbrooke to become his heir. The news about his mother’s demise arrives via a letter from a Miss Laura Fairleigh, a stiff-rumped rector’s daughter whom his attorney informs him has been a pensioner of his mother for the better part of a decade, and who has the effrontery to scold him for neglecting his mother all these years. In a righteous rage, Sterling sets off on horseback, without bothering to inform any of his staff of his intentions, to confront the baggage and throw her out of Arden Manor, which was the place of his birth and automatically came into his ownership after his father died some years back. Unfortunately, on the very edge of the property around Arden Manor, his horse stumbles and takes a fall in a dark forest, throwing Sterling off its back and straight into a tree.
According to the terms of her generous benefactress’s will, Laura Fairleigh must marry before her 21st birthday—which occurs in a matter of weeks—in order to inherit Arden Manor, the home she and her younger siblings have shared for the past seven years, after the untimely death of their parents in a fire that burned down the rectory. Her brother George is 13, her sister Lottie 10, and Laura feels more like a mother to them than an older sister. She would do anything to keep them safe—except marry any of the three rustic swains from the local village who have been courting her. Then suddenly, like an answer to her prayers, she discovers a young man with a beautiful face and athletic form, who looks like a fairytale prince, lying unconscious in the forest near Arden Manor. When the mysterious stranger awakens from his swoon, he has no memory of his name or his past, and the temptation he presents is too overwhelming for Laura to resist. Heaven has clearly sent her a bridegroom in her hour of need, and when he asks her who he is, she informs him that he is her fiancé, Nicholas Radcliffe, combining her favorite male name with the surname of a beloved author.
This is a highly entertaining romance with frequent, laugh-out-loud moments. I have read multiple amnesia-based, historical romances over the years. It tends to always be a highly improbable plot device, requiring quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. Which I am personally much more willing to give when the author writes her story as a farcical comedy, as is the case with this delightful novel.
Laura and Sterling are both very attractive and sympathetic protagonists. They have a lot of sexual chemistry, but they also develop a believable friendship over the course of the story, which is always a plus for a romance, in my opinion. It is both humorous and compellingly tender watching Sterling’s normally harshly cynical, controlling, hell-raising Alpha personality soften as he acts the part of Laura’s ideal man, a sweet-natured, protective, straight-laced Beta male, after she informs him that this is the way he’s always been.
There are many colorful subcharacters in this book in the form of George, Lottie, a nutty old couple who have served for decades as the cook/housekeeper and jack-of-all-trades at the manor, and assorted quirky villagers. Each of them contributes greatly to the ongoing hilarity.
All in all, this is a very entertaining Regency historical which is a quick and compelling read.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5