by Donna Simpson

June 2001
ISBN: 0-8217-7939-X
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

A romance novel doesn't have to be a complicated thing for most people to enjoy it. Most romance books, regardless of sub-genre, follow a formula, and usually, if the story is well told or if the characters are interesting enough, we don't care about the form and allow ourselves to be pulled into the fantasy. The Zebra Regency Romance, Miss Truelove Beckons by Donna Simpson follows a standard Regency plotline with the story of a vicar's daughter falling in love with a viscount in need of her innocent, artless charms, only with this book, there is very little to distract you from the unimaginative story.

The story of Miss Truelove Becket (Beckons is how the hero mistakenly hears her name when he is introduced to her) and Viscount Drake, and their path to true love (pun intended and repeated throughout the book) is filled with the usual cast of interfering family members and greedy, ambitious fortune hunters. That should be conflict enough for any couple, especially if you include the difference in their social situations, but more speed bumps on the path of true love (I know, I said it again) keep popping up, just when you're thinking that the last conflict was resolved or that the book should end. It all seemed a little contrived, though perhaps it wouldn't have been obvious if the main characters had been more developed and I could have seen the sudden and generally idiotic decisions they made as realistic choices based on their personalities.

Truelove is a serene, compassionate, and supposedly intelligent girl. I know because the author told me so. Again, this would have been fine if Donna Simpson had fleshed Truelove out as the book progressed, and given her some characteristics of self-doubt or even a hint of a desire to be selfish, even if only for a moment. But True is always self-sacrificing, even when I saw no reason for her to be, she's always nice about it. Drake isn't much better. Aside from his nightmares about Waterloo, which are depicted in vivid, agonizing detail, I can't remember much about him. I think he might like to fish, but other than that, he had no interests and so held no interest for me.

More intriguing to me were the side characters, especially True's ambitious but secretly soft hearted cousin, Arabella. We spend quite a bit of time with this character, only to have her disappear with little explanation at the end. I found myself wishing the book had been about her instead. It might have been interesting to have a heroine who wasn't entirely likable.

Mostly, I just wish this book had had less going on. There's nothing wrong with a plain, sweetly told romance about two people who need each other and come together, regardless of their pasts, or the difference in their social situations.

Reviewed in December 2001 by Wendy B..

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