Barbara Dawson Smith, Author, Olivia Drake, Author . St. Martin's $6.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-98230-0

Arrogant, alpha-male heroes with hearts of gold are a dime a dozen in romance novels, and the hero of Smith's (One Wild Night , etc.) formulaic Regency does little to distinguish himself from the pack. Samuel Firth, the illegitimate son of the former Marquess of Stokeford, married 14-year-old Cassandra Grey, the daughter of a Duke, to raise his social stature and build a dynasty that would rival that of his aristocratic relations. But when he realizes his bride is too young to start a dynasty, he abandons her on their wedding night and travels the globe, returning four years later when she petitions him for a separation. Although Samuel agrees to give Cassie what she wants provided that she helps him reenter society, he has no intention of letting her go. At 19, Cassie is now a beauty, and Samuel is prepared to use every tool in his arsenal, including manipulation, to get her into bed. Samuel comes across as little more than a bully wrapped in a handsome package, but his flinty encounters with the independent-minded Cassie will keep readers turning the pages, many in the hopes that she'll give him the dressing-down he deserves. Inevitably, the novel ends on a bittersweet note, with Cassie succumbing to her husband's sensual coercion, which will make some readers sigh with satisfaction and others with exasperation. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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