cover image Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement

Christina Dodd. Avon Books, $7.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-380-81198-4

Dodd's extraordinary second book in the Governess Brides series opens with Miss Pamela Lockhart and Miss Hannah Setterington in precarious financial straits: someone has stolen the monthly income that insures the survival of their Distinguished Academy of Governesses. So when the Earl of Kerrich requests a mature governess who will acquire him an orphan and provide Queen Victoria with proof of his respectability, the young ladies are forced to accept Kerrich's profitable offer, despite its slightly dishonorable aspects. Pamela, once a belle of society, disguises herself as an elderly, plainspoken governess and rescues young Beth from the orphanage to become Kerrich's ward. As head of his grandfather's bank (which manages some of the Crown's wealth), Kerrich must convince the queen that he is a man who can be trusted, even while he is aware of a scandal involving counterfeit money and the possible theft of bank funds. As Kerrich investigates the crime, Pamela and Beth become more closely intertwined in the earl's life, and he finds himself relishing the daily sparring with a woman who meets him as an equal. When Pamela's disguise is revealed, Kerrich's banked passion ignites and he tries to convince her to marry, thereby solving her money problems and assuring his respectability. A fiery romance ensues and the two proud lovers discover intimacy in the midst of family difficulties. Dodd's beautifully rendered love story expertly portrays the growth and maturity that develops in the course of realizing true love and continues her series with a thoroughly satisfying addition. (Oct.)