Henley's (The Border Hostage) latest Regency-era romance is less steamy than her classics, but it will still satisfy her fans. As always, her heroine is a spitfire and her hero a dashing rake. In this case, however, the rake is also an identical twin, which leads to mishaps both predictable and utterly surprising. Nicholas and Christopher "Kit" Hatton have been inseparable from the day they were born, despite their father's preference for Christopher, his heir. But Alexandra Sheffield, promised to Kit in the cradle, may be the one prize the brothers can't bear to share. She finds herself irresistibly drawn to the penniless Nick, despite his reputation and her need to marry well to support her dowager aunt. Nick, in turn, is torn between his duty to his family and his desire for his bewitching young neighbor. The lovers strive diligently to stay apart, and their success is the story's failure, particularly as Kit devolves into a fairly stock villain. Many of the plot devices are familiar, and the pace drags toward the middle. However, Henley still has a few tricks up her sleeve, and she dispenses them liberally in the latter half. Although the novel is patchy, it will likely inspire newcomers to check out Henley's backlist. (Nov. 5)
Forecast:Some may consider the move from hardcover to mass market a step in the wrong direction, but Signet's decision to publish Henley's newest as a mass market original (Delacorte released her last three titles in hardcover) is a wise one. Henley's fans will appreciate her return to the affordable mass market format, and browsers will be more likely to take the plunge at the $7 cover price.