Julia Quinn, Author . Avon $6.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-380-82085-6

After reading this superb post-Regency-era romance, the fifth in Quinn's Bridgerton siblings series, it's easy to see why the author's previous book, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, landed on RWA's Top 10 Favorite Books of 2002 list. Quinn is a consummate storyteller. Her prose is spry and assured, and she excels at creating indelible characters like chatty Eloise Bridgerton and Sir Phillip Crane, the protagonists of this unconventional effort. The novel opens as Eloise, a 28-year-old "spinster," flees London to visit her secret pen pal, Phillip, a troubled botanist and widower. The two plan to see if they are compatible, but Eloise's hopes plummet when she discovers that Phillip is not the romantic charmer of her dreams, but a grumpy father of twins. She agrees to remain for a fortnight, however, and as she interacts with him and his unruly children, she learns that he has a good heart, even if he is an emotionally distant father. Weighty issues such as abuse and discipline threaten to overshadow their relationship at times, but Eloise's sunny disposition brightens the novel, as does the arrival of her four brothers. Quinn's characters possess endearing quirks and flaws, and their easy banter is loaded with wit and warmth. Indeed, readers will likely find themselves rereading certain passages—if not the entire book—in order to prolong their connection to this charismatic clan. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/12/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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