Amanda Quick, Author . Putnam $24.95 (418p) ISBN 978-0-399-15174-3

With 41 bestsellers to her credit, Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Quick) still approaches a new project as if novel writing were a just-discovered pleasure she can't wait to share. This late Regency romance offers her signature goodies. Elenora Lodge loses the manor to which she was born and thus becomes the eponymous paid companion. She is, of course, plucky, intellectual, democratic, lovely and unabashedly eager to surrender her virginity to the right man: "Sensation whipped through her; a glorious, heady, dizzying whirlpool of passion. She knew that if she did not explore these thrilling emotions with him she would carry the regret with her for the rest of her life." The source of the whirlpool is Arthur Lancaster, earl of St. Merryn, cranky, quirky, decent to the death, with a sizable fortune and lusty nature to match. Although a happy ending is never in doubt, a murder mystery is threaded through the love story, allowing the besotted couple to sleuth in dark alleyways between tumbles in bed. Quick draws on Regency fascination with science to inform villainous madman Parker, who styles himself "England's second Newton" and terrorizes Elenora with a precursor of the laser. Masked balls, upper-class gambling, women who manage their own affairs and marry for love: if this is familiar territory, it still satisfies. And when Arthur proposes, readers will be right there with Elenora: "The most delicious sense of joy unfurled within her." Agent, Stephen Ayelrod. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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