by Candice Hern

May 2004
ISBN: 0-06-056514-4
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

In April of 1802, a shy, unassuming spinster would experience a transformation. One so complete that no one could believe it possible. But love can do that, even when itís forced or unwanted, and even if itís only one-sided.

Prudence Armitage had been quietly in love with Nicholas Parrish for several years. Working for her best friend Edwina and her magazine The Ladiesí Fashionable Cabinet, kept Prudence in very close proximity to Nicholas, a contributing writer. And the Cabinet offices were located in Nicholasí townhouse where he and Edwina formerly resided. Now with Edwina away on her honeymoon, Prudence assumes the duties of editor-in-chief. It was a case of constant blushing and fluttering heartbeats for Prudence every time Nicholas came near. Nicholas, however, was oblivious to Prudence. He thought of her as friend to his sister, perhaps, even a close friend to him and competent co-worker ó but certainly nothing more. And Pru would never wish for more. How could she? She was plain and firmly on the shelf at seven-and-twenty.

Nicolas Parrish, a Republican, a man with a dream to reform the appalling working conditions of Englandís working class, had a mission. But on one fateful morning, after a long night of carousing, his dreams seem to end. An insistent pounding shocks Nicolas awake and he finds an older man shouting and demanding marriage, marriage between Nicholas and his daughter, the daughter he had defiled last evening. Completely confused, but willing to do battle, Nicolas could only surmise that the actress heíd spent a more-than-willing hour with the previous evening, was now plotting to extort money or - horror of all horrors ó marriage.

But the woman is neither an actress nor the victim of his defilement. She is none other than Pru ó who while working late had innocently fallen asleep at her desk, consequently spending the entire night alone with him in his townhouse. Under duress, but peculiarly agreeing with her father that Prudence is well and truly compromised, Nicholas chivalrously agrees to a marriage.

Candice Hern delivers the perfect romance in the conclusion of this Regency trilogy Once A Gentleman. Your heart is engaged from the start. Your sympathies are firmly aligned with our heroine, who is endearing and unpretentious. The cast of secondary characters is colorful and fun. Nicholas, our hero, is handsome, charming, and so clueless. But the characterization of Prudence rides to the forefront from beginning to end. You will simultaneously root for her, then laugh and cry at her humility and especially her feeble attempts at seduction. You wonít need to read the first or second of the trilogy to enjoy Once A Gentleman, but I can tell you . . . I canít wait to get my hands on them!

Reviewed in April 2004 by Janice.

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