Skye O'Malley, etc.) dishes up yet another histori"/>

THE DUCHESS

Bertrice Small, Author . Ballantine $14.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-345-43435-7

For those who simply can't get enough of the fashion, food and folly of the British upper crust, Small (Skye O'Malley, etc.) dishes up yet another historical romance involving a couple who find themselves at odds before learning the meaning of true love in late-18th-century England and France. Quinton Hunter, duke of Sedgwick, has the bluest blood in England, "even bluer than the king's," but because his forebears gambled away the family fortune, he is now all but bankrupt—so he must find a bride who is not only worthy but wealthy. Allegra Morgan is the daughter of the richest man in England, but because her mother was a woman of questionable virtue who left her husband and remarried an Italian count, a permanent stain mars polite society's view of her. Despite their initial dislike for one another, Quinton and Allegra decide to follow the dictates of cultural norms and consent to a marriage of convenience that will benefit both families. Inevitably, they become overwhelmed by each other's charms and love ensues. But there is no immediate happily ever after, as the plight of a French countess in distress draws the duo into a mission to save her from the Reign of Terror. The French portion of this tale of two cities, coming late in the novel and with little groundwork laid, feels as though the author suddenly decided to add some suspense to the suds in order to plump up the thin story. There's absolutely nothing new between these covers, and the Scarlet Pimpernel–doings are just silly. Hardcore fans—of which Small has plenty—are the only ones who need seek entrée to this ball. (July)

Reviewed on: 07/09/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
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