by Loretta Chase

March 2004
ISBN: 0-425-19483-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Berkley
Mass Market Paperback

Alistair Carsington loves his clothes and doesnít mind spending his fatherís money on it. Immaculately turned out he compensates for his limp. Three years since his return from Waterloo. Three years of hero worship Ė not that he can remember any of his deeds Ė three years keeping his heart. The Earl of Hargate might be grateful for the absence of scandals involving his son and his latest love, but even those were preferable to the constant flow of dressmaker bills.

Itís good then that Alistairís dear friend needs help in proposing a canal to the people of Derbyshire. Off to meet the challenge Alistair soon finds out that the only real opponent in the running is the dowdy spinster Miss Mirabel Oldridge. Everything depends on her, as she is the one running her addled fatherís estate, the largest in Derbyshire. The rest of the population is more than happy to welcome him with open arms and to introduce their unmarried daughters.

Expecting to win over the locals by listening and being open-minded and fair, he is unprepared for the heroís welcome he receives. Dismayed at being unable to prove his worth, Alistair realizes that only Mirabel will rouse his fighting spirit. Not wanting to admit defeat and to allow for the suspicions that Waterloo might have beat the fight out of him, he sets out to redeem himself; Mirabel and her cause are the perfect challenge.

Years ago Mirabelís first love might have been discouraged by her words and actions. Alistair is of a different sort. Persistent and with a pretty good idea of what and who he wants heís not someone to give up. No matter her repudiations or her choice of atrocious attires. However, winning Mirabel comes with some hefty stipulations. Alistair must lay bare his soul. Feeling uncomfortable talking about his wartime deeds, Alistair still trusts Mirabel enough to reveal his imperfections to her and even revels in her critical appraisal. Itís very special to see those two fall in love with the otherís true nature, to see how they search out the deeper and more complicated layers that are hidden, and not to let appearances fool them.

Loretta Chaseís writing voice is one where you want to savor every word, every sentence. Rhythm and sound coming together in a symphony of laughter and love. Shame then that a little too much emphasis was put on the canal and its many resulting disputes. I would have preferred more time spent on the developing relationship, as I loved every moment I spent in the company of sensitive Alistair and resourceful Mirabel.

Reviewed in March 2004 by Kris Alice.

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