Avon, Jan 2003, 5.99, 384 pp.
In 1801 London, teenager Belinda Chadwick informs her Aunt Eleanor Tennant that she loves Geoffrey Barkwith, a notorious rake. Eleanor tries to persuade Belinda to forget Geoffrey, but the niece quotes popular advice columnist Busybody to go after love. Eleanor confronts Busybody, but is stunned that the columnist is a man. Eleanor blackmails Simon Westover to talk with her niece as he fears her revealing his identity plus she shows him the stupidity of concentrating on only love and not the relationship.
The couple finds a note that says Belinda eloped with Geoffrey. Eleanor forces Simon to accompany her to rescue Belinda from a man she believes will ruin her niece. As they ride in his coach in pursuit of the eloping pair, they debate whether love exists. Though Simon believes that his companion needs a hero he works on an ode to her kissable lips. As they chase after the runaways and now argue the role of women in society, they fall in love, but when he turns swashbuckling he angers Eleanor who demands pragmatism not romanticism in her ideal relationship.
Though the plot repeats itself several times as Simon the romantic and Eleanor the pragmatic debate life while chasing after Belinda, the story is an enjoyable gender bending Regency that sub-genre fans will relish. The key to the tale is how opposite the lead couple appear yet somehow the audience feels that opposites not only attract but also belong together. Candice Hern writes a wonderful charmer that focuses on a witty debate that leads to not compromise but consensus between the dueling duet.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner