by Jacquie D`Alessandro

April 2002
ISBN: 0-440-23712-2
Reviewer Graphic Button Dell Publishing
Mass Market Paperback

Samantha Briggeham is shocked, to say the least, when her father informs her that she is betrothed, to a man nearly old enough to be her father and whom she cares for only as a distant friend. Distraught, she has no idea that the upsetting conversation has been overheard by Arthur Timstone, Eric Wesley's servant who was sneaking away from a tryst with their cook. Fortunately for her, Eric is the notorious Bride Thief, a man who steals away women on their way to forced marriages and gives them a new life. The servant immediately goes and informs his employer that there is a new candidate for abduction.

Sure enough, several nights later, Samantha finds herself taken by the Bride Thief as she comes home from calling on her betrothed. She informs that masked man that she really did not need his services; she had managed to dissuade her intended from the engagement by introducing him to her pets, a toad, a snake, and a rat, and implying that they shared her bed. She capped it off with most unladylike behavior and singing tunelessly. The Thief is dumbfounded, but agrees to return her home but only after the rain has passed. While they wait, Sammie listens to him, and becomes convinced that the Thief is the most dashing man she has ever met.

Returning home, Sammie, a true bluestocking and wallflower, finds herself now the object of the ton's interest, with one and all clamoring for her attention to hear the story of her abduction as she is the only woman to ever be returned. Used to her anonymity, Sammie definitely does not welcome her newfound popularity.

For his part, Eric begins to fear that Sammie will attempt to follow through on her stated dreams of helping the Bride Thief and seeks her out at a party to learn if this is so. The two clashes, but can not get each other off their minds. Eric begins to call upon her, and also strikes up a fast friendship with the one member of her family that understands Sammie - her younger brother, Hubert.

As they become closer, the situation becomes more and more uncomfortable. Neither wishes to ever marry, but they want one another. Giving in to desire might be the end of the friendship they have shared as they cannot bear to be around each other without yielding to the passions that can only get them into trouble. However, they may not get that choice. Caught in a compromising position, Eric and Sammie must marry, and once again she has the opportunity to escape with her first love, the Bride Thief. Will she take the chance, or will she learn his secret and forgive him? Then, there is the added problem that a group of irate fathers who have lost their daughters to him are planning to hang the Thief if he is caught. Can Eric avoid the noose? Love is the only hope they have.

In the tradition of Amanda Quick, yet fresh and original, this is a delightful story that will appeal to even those who might not usually enjoy historicals. Sammie is one of a kind, a true delight, and Eric is a tortured hero who has not gotten bogged down with his pain but had done something good with it. The supporting cast of her relatives sparkles with wit and eccentricity. I hope that one day, Hubert might get his own novel, as this is a boy that shows great promise as a character. I am sure, at least, that the romance world has not heard the last of this talented author.

Reviewed in March 2002 by Amanda.

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