by Amanda Quick

April 1999
ISBN: 0-553-10084-X
Reviewer Graphic Button Bantam Books

Weekends at an elegant country home can be pure hell! At least they can if you're a paid companion rather than an honored guest. Even though Emma Greyson arrives at Ware Castle with Lady Letty Mayfield, she is still considered a resident of that undefined area that hovers between Upstairs and Downstairs! Matters deteriorate even more for Emma when she realizes a former employer of hers is attending the weekend party - an employer whose unwanted sexual advances she'd barely escaped. Hiding behind an awful pair of spectacles, Emma is determined to remain unnoticed this weekend if at all possible. Consequently, it is a shock to Emma when unforeseen circumstances force her into hiding in a large wardrobe - and even more shocking when a firm male hand silently grips her waist and lets her know she is not alone!

Financier Edison Stokes has a mission. Elegant, rich and much sought-after by the ladies, Edison was hot on the trail of a stolen artifact - a book in this case - and the trail had brought him to Ware Castle and eventually to Emma's hiding place! Snuggling against a solid male chest would make most of us a little weak at the knees, and Emma is no exception. Edison and Emma immediately sense that there could be something happening between them, but Emma's position and background forbid her to even consider the idea! Well, maybe she does consider it a little bit - especially when Edison rescues her from a charge of murder! It's very difficult for a companion to find a good position once she's been charged with that kind of a crime - even if she does have impeccable references!

In this book, Amanda Quick introduces us to the mythological island of Vanzagara, which she uses in other regency novels. Edison Stokes, like other adherents of Vanza philosophy, is an interesting fellow - sort of a cross between a martial arts expert and a meditative yogi with a very interesting tattoo. Quick (and her alter ego, Jayne Ann Krentz) is exceptionally good at creating a believable story arc and backing it up with solid characters and ideas. So it is with Vanzagara, and we are fully convinced of Edison's deeply contemplative habits, rapid responses, intuitive thinking and amazing fighting skills. Emma is familiar with the discovery of Vanzagara, and it's not too long before she becomes enmeshed in Edison's search for the book and, incidentally, in his heart! Their romance is played against a plot involving plenty of shady characters and unexpected passions, not to mention his battleaxe of a grandmother. Edison finds Emma's help invaluable but her presence is a major distraction. She completely upsets his ordered life, simply by being herself. To find out how they deal with their emotional entanglement while solving the mystery of the Vanza Book of Secrets, you will have to follow many other happy readers back into Regency England and share in this charming adventure.

Reviewed in September 2001 by Celia.

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