by Mary Jo Putney

June 2004 Reissue
ISBN: 0-451-20851-X
Reviewer Graphic Button Signet Books
Mass Market Paperback

While Dearly Beloved is a reprint from Mary Jo Putney’s extensive backlist, the novel is a compelling reminder of the author’s gift for historical romance. This is a genre she has neglected of late, and I, for one, miss her deft pen. Dearly Beloved’s reissue will introduce her to new readers who will be scouring the bookstores and auction sites for other treasures.

Secrets on top of secrets mark the basis for Dearly Beloved. Gervase Brandelin, the Viscount St. Aubyn, has a very dark past. In partial atonement, he spends his days working for the Crown as a spymaster. There is a breach in the system, and agents are being murdered. All of the signs point to one man, The Phoenix, who is supplying vital information to the French. When he reluctantly accompanies his cousin to a party, he discovers a woman of staggering beauty and poise. Perhaps it is time to find another mistress after all.

Diana Lindsay has decided that becoming a courtesan will provide an escape from poverty and a means to support her son as befits his birth. She will make this sacrifice gladly, in order to make sure that Geoffrey has a good education and an entree into society. As she enters the glittering world of the demirep, she is drawn to the powerful viscount, despite the rumors of his past deeds.

As Diana and Gervase begin their affair, the Phoenix is ready to strike again. This time, however, it is not state secrets he is after, but the lovely young woman who holds St. Aubyn’s attention. As the truth is revealed brick by brick, the walls surrounding these two survivors begin to topple. Will their love be strong enough to withstand all that is concealed?

Although I had read this book many years ago, it was a pleasure to revisit it. The characters are so strongly drawn that you cannot help to become involved in their lives. At times, Gervase is quite an unattractive hero who does despicable things. It is a true mark of Ms. Putney’s skill that he can still be heroic and a fitting match for Diana. Historic romance readers who are unfamiliar with Ms. Putney’s backlist will find Dearly Beloved a fine introduction to a wonderful author. I hope that Signet plans to reissue some of her other titles as well.

Reviewed in June 2004 by Paula.

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