Tamsin Harte

Malcolm MacDonald, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-20628-4
Set in a Cornish fishing village at the turn of the last century, Macdonald's latest historical romance (after Like a Diamond) evokes the moment when England's rigid class structure first began to loosen and the upper class began to reconsider its conventional injunction against the self-made man, or in this case, woman. Tamsin Harte and her mother, Harriet, fall from the upper echelon of society when Tamsin's father dies and his shipping firm goes bankrupt. They open a boarding house to get by. Energetic, enterprising and ambitious, Tamsin discovers that she has a mind suited to business enterprises. (Her secret ambition is to build ""the best hotel in Cornwall."") When it comes to romance, however, she is still bound by tradition. Though attracted to handsome fisherman David Peters, she cannot consider him as anything more than a friend, since he is not of the right class. Instead she sets her sights on Victor Thorne, a spoiled young man from an upper-crust family whose snobbish, scheming mother, Cicely Thorne, provides much of the story's conflict. Tamsin also finds herself attracted to Standish Coverley, a helpful and engaging man who owns the region's most posh hotel, but who appears uninterested in romantic liaisons with women. There is plenty of social intrigue and high adventure, including brandy smuggling, narrow escapes from the custom officers, fine dining and skinny dipping. Delightful descriptions of archaic Victorian-era practices, such as the use of ""ladies' bathing machines,"" add historical color. Though a number of interesting and amusing secondary characters disappear or play disappointingly minor roles in the plot, Macdonald tells a lively and engaging tale. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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