by Karen Hawkins

December 2003
ISBN: 0-06-051405-1
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

I still canít get over how much I disliked Karen Hawkinsí first title in the Talisman Ring Series, An Affair To Remember. It seems so unreal, as I really liked Confessions of a Scoundrel after that and now absolutely adore her latest release, How to Treat a Lady, the third in the Series. Did I really, at some point believe that Karen Hawkins is second to the likes of Julia Quinn and Christina Dodd? Iíve changed my mind! At the moment Karen Hawkins certainly tops my list of must-read Regency Historical authors.

Itís been three years since Harriet Wardís father died. Three years of being heavily in dept. To fend of the bank and save them from being evicted, Harrietís mother invents a fiancť for her oldest daughter. A wealthy sea captain. Tall, dark and handsome. All seems well and only one more mortgage payment is needed. However, one persistent banker wonít believe the tale, insisting on proof. Luck has it that at that exact moment a stranger is found on their doorsteps. Recovering from a robbery and with seemingly no memory of who he is Ö

Chase; the black sheep of the St. Johns, is finished with so-called friends and causing trouble for his family. Instead of dishonoring the St. John name, Chase decides on leaving London for the continent. However, it is not Italy, but the Ward family farm - only an hour outside London - he finds himself stranded at. Not to be brought to his brothersí attention he claims amnesia only to be lashed onto as Harrietís elusive seafaring fiancť. As he is not worthy of the St. John name anymore, why not hide out as a farmer, herding sheep and shearing wool. And there is Harriet, who is different than any other woman heís ever met. Itís not just her indifference to his charms but also her barely veiled probing into his past and his real identity, that keep him intrigued and entertained

How to Treat a Lady is a deeply satisfying page-turner like nearly all of Karen Hawkinsí books. However, this time she lingers and revels in the simplicity of country hours, chores and characters. Itís original and refreshing and not only just because of that nice spin to the amnesia story element. Mostly itís Harriet. Sheís unlike any romance heroine Iíve read about in a very long time. Sheís earthier and more realistic and enterprising. And so much more likable. This Cinderella doesnít need a fairy godmother even though she harbors dreams of a London season and of dances with a handsome stranger.

Chase might be a rake, a scoundrel, a drunk and in desperate need of reforming. However; as the Ward family doesnít know his real identity, the changes have to come from within. Yes, he is tortured, but heís not whiny. Thanks to the author, he stays in character. No, heís not perfect, but heís got plenty of opportunities to show what a caring person he is. And with Harriet and her family constantly teasing and baiting him, he is also allowed to show wit, compassion and strength. You just canít help falling in love with him. Especially when he understands and encourages the importance and dreams of silver satin ballroom slippers.

Chase and Harrietís attraction is subtle and some readers might find the relationship lacking of sizzle. But I like how it evolves from a mutual respect instead of just stunning looks. And when they finally succumb to their attraction itís hot! And tender! And loving! Not sure about their moral standards? He knows she is a virgin, and she knows heís leaving soon. Then please do allow for that moment of ďOh well, itís a romance novel.Ē Get over it, read on and enjoy.

Is How to Treat a Lady too modern for a Regency Romance? Iím sure there will be the sticklers for accuracy complaining again. Shame, they're missing out on a very entertaining and satisfying story. After all, itís the characters that really make the story. And with the rest of the Ward and the St. John families, you not only get a very likable heroine and hero, but also secondary characters that will charm your socks off. So, with that little bit of St. John magic How to Treat a Lady should get Karen Hawkins that one, well-deserved, big step closer to superstardom heights.

Reviewed in February 2004 by Kris Alice.

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