by Deborah Hale

May 2003
ISBN: 0373292554
Reviewer Graphic Button Harlequin
Mass Market Paperback

A beautiful woman agrees to a phony engagement to a baron she hardly knows just to make his beloved grandfather's last days joyful.

The young woman, Angela (ĎAngelí), is extremely beautiful but has no dowry due to a selfish uncle who is both her and her brotherís guardian. The baron, Lucius, (Lucifer), was once the most handsome, rakish man in all of London, until he was injured in the Battle of Waterloo and his face was so disfigured that he wears a half mask. Besides hiding his face, he has hidden from the world for over three years, and in this time Angela has been visiting Lucius' grandfather, a friendship the man treasures. Because of his grandfatherís attempt at matchmaking, when Lucius get the news his grandfather has about three months left to live, he enlists Angelaís assistance. How can Angela refuse when the offer includes a commission for her brother to India where their father was an officer and died?

Because Lucius wore a mask, it reminded me of the Phantom of the Opera, and the title sounds like a play on Beauty and the Beast), two very emotionally charged romances. Although analogous to these stories in the beginning, the story fell way short in the delivery. First, I never could understand the attraction Lucius could have for Angela because we never really learn anything interesting or impressive about her except her comely face and figure that is supposed to be lovely despite her passion for barley candy and sweets. Lucius was better developed, but the fact that the villagers thought he was devil worshipper at night when it turns out he was only star gazing, was predictable. I never saw the romantic attraction develop between the two characters; there was plenty of narrative, but little good dialogue. It always seems to stop just when it looked like it was going somewhere. There wasnít really much happening except planning for a ball, and it was easy to guess they would fight and break off the engagement that wasnít supposed to last anyway.

Iím sorry to say that this novel did not hold my attention, hard as I tried. The character development was lacking, the chemistry was never felt, including the development of any sexual tension, and if you are like me and enjoy a fast paced, page-turner with conflict and dialogue, then this is not your cup of tea.

Reviewed in April 2003 by Suemarie.

Read more reviews of Deborah Hale books.Click Here