by Judith A. Lansdowne

March 2003
ISBN: 0-8217-7421-2
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Just in Time, begins with a mystery concerning the apparent death of the Duke of Berinwick. The setting is Blackcastle Estate, and the Dutchess has lost her husband but discovers that she has gained an old friend. Unknown to her, her deceased husband had requested a new reverend. He is Richard Dempsey a childhood acquaintance whom Veronica hasnít seen for over thirty years. He arrives at St. Milburgaís of the Woods church, and nothing is as it should be. The duke is dead, the church a shambles, and the people havenít had a preacher in twenty years because the old duke killed him. But that doesnít bother him as much as the knowledge that some madman, that dresses like a ghost, is trying to kill the Berinwickís widow, his beloved Veronica, and her children, duke William and Hannah.

There are more secrets that need to be shared, and an old romance is rekindled. But this is the first problem I have with this story. Although the author writes beautifully, very descriptive and historically interesting scenes, I donít like her style of romance. The hero Richard, wrote Veronica a love poem when he was six, and Veronica still has it in her jewelry box when she is over forty. I not only found this very hard to find romantic, I could not conceive it. Veronica was five years his senior. What eleven year old girl would fall in love with a six year old boy and then call him her long lost love? I had great difficulty getting past that. I had no trouble with an older woman and a younger man having a romance, but I was truly disappointed over and over. Every time Veronica and Richard got together, it ended without anything happening! He was on a quest to find her husbands assassin, and acted as if her husband was still there, always desiring to touch her, but never doing so. She continued to speak about how much she loved him as a child, that it almost seemed like the relationship one would have with a son, not a lover.

The other thing that really bothered me was the whole murder-mystery. There were so many incidental characters and obscure clues about a cup that was supposed to be very important, but without the romantic tension I'm used to, I confess,I became bored with it all. None of it really mattered. The plot really dragged on, the settings never changed and the romance was too polite. I did enjoy a couple of scenes, like when William, who has is handicapped from a childhood injury, helps two children find a pet hedgehog. I also loved the character of Hannah, the dutchessís daugher.

Just in Time is not really a romance. It has a romantic undercurrent. Itís a rather nice story set in Shropshire, England in 1795, about a man who comes to the aid of an old friend, and thereís a mystery to be solved before she gets killed. Both start out looking like great characters, heís strong, intelligent, and the shoulder the grieving widow needs. He looks like heís come to rescue the damsel in distress like a knight on a white steed, but the mystery gets more importance than the romance, and the only one on a white steed is the ghost.

I personally prefer more romance with my mysteries. This is the first in a new trilogy for the author. I hope the other books have more passion and less drama.

Reviewed in June 2003 by Suemarie.

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