Mary Balogh, . . Delacorte, $22 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33822-6

What happens when a haughty, rakish aristocrat and a prim, beautiful schoolteacher are stranded in a deserted country inn together during a snowstorm? They fall in love, of course. But as all this takes place in fewer than 100 pages—and as this is a fairly conventional Regency-era romance—the story doesn't end so quickly or easily. Instead, Frances Allard denies her feelings, pushes Lucius Marshall away by refusing his offer to join him in London and, when they're coincidentally thrown together again in Bath, attempts to ignore him—all of which makes Lucius try even harder to get her attention. A devastating secret from Frances's past keeps her from giving in, even when Lucius proposes marriage, but this secret turns out to be so unsurprising and so easily surmountable that Lucius's 200 pages of pursuit hardly seems worthwhile. Readers will feel some satisfaction when this well-matched duo eventually come together, and as usual Balogh peppers her tale with vibrant, amiable secondary characters, including a handful of Frances's colorful schoolteacher friends and Lucius's merry sisters. However, this romance, which launches a new series focusing on the young ladies' academy where Frances works, is far more forgettable than Balogh's popular Bedwyn family Regencies. (Apr.)