cover image My Fair Lord

My Fair Lord

Julie Beard. Berkley Publishing Group, $6.99 (358pp) ISBN 978-0-425-17481-4

Soldering together the usual Regency-historical conventions, Beard (The Maiden's Heart) creates a work that fails to consistently entertain, even as escapist lit. A prim yet passionate heroine, Caroline Wainwright, must find a husband or lose her home. Her friend Dr. Theodore Cavendish comes to her rescue by locating a devilishly attractive London thief in jail, transforming him into a gentleman and bringing him to Caroline, who straightaway falls in love. Actually, the former thief, Lucas Davin, is the cast-off son and heir of the neighboring earl. Thus far the novel remains reasonably entertaining, but the author proceeds to convolute its dramatic line by tacking on a heavy subplot involving ghosts and exorcisms. The book is also marred by several racist remarks. (Pointing to his African servant, Dr. Theodore declares, ""I have civilized the most uncivilized natives imaginable. Look at Shabala here. When I found him he was hunting in the jungle. Now he is the best butler in England."") Perhaps this flaw can be excused as a reflection of the age's attitudes, but in this poorly structured work readers may decide it's the straw that breaks the book's back. (June)