by Karen Hawkins

March 2006
ISBN: 0-06-058408-4
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Author Karen Hawkins has put a slightly different spin on her newest series of books. Rather than a hero or heroineís perspective, she offers up the insights of the working class. In this case, Richard Robert Reeves, butler of all butlers. Reeves figures prominently in the stories and also shares his views on butlering with excerpts from his own book, A Compleat Guide For Being A Most Proper Butler.

Serving the powerful Earl of Rochester has been gratifying, but that service is nearing its end. The nobleman is dying, and has charged Reeves with a deathbed request - to find his twin sons, born on the wrong side of the blanket. In fact, the earl, childless with his bride, managed to sire quite a few children illegitimately. He has managed to secure the inheritance for his sons, only by some paperwork slight of hand.

This task should not be too difficult, except for a few pertinent details: the earl lost contact with his sons when they were ten, they undoubtedly want no part of his estate, and they are less-than-shining examples of polite society. In fact, in order for his eldest son to inherit the estate, he must pass inspection by a Board of Trustees! Reeves, of course, assures his employer that he is able to discharge his duty

Tristan Llevanth, soon-to-be Earl of Rochester, is a decorated naval hero. Unfortunately, before his recent triumph, he was also a pirate. Befriended by Lord Admiral Nelson, Tristan was wounded at sea in the same battle that killed his mentor. Now dry-docked, he does not know what to do with himself, or with the arrival of some of his crew, equally adrift. Pressed into service at the tender age of 10, he has seen the brutality of the world, and few of itís pleasures. He is a self-made man who has no real course for the future.

Reeves will have to use every weapon at his disposal to convince Tristan that becoming the next earl will give him the power, and funds, to do anything. Making sure that Tristan can pass muster may require additional help, which Reeves finds in Tristanís widowed neighbor, Prudence Thistlewaite. Her genteel strength is just what is needed to smooth the rough edges from Tristanís manners, while Reeves concentrates on creating a household staff from the cadre of former sailors.

Her Master and Commander is a delight. While it is filled with deep emotion and will tug at your heartstrings, you will be laughing out loud as some of the antics that take place. Watching Reeves work his magic is worth the price of the book, and more. Tristan and Prudence come from different worlds, yet love brings them together. Equally impressive is the sub-plot regarding Tristanís twin, Christian, and a hint of the story to come.

Reviewed in February 2006 by Paula.

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