cover image One Perfect Rose

One Perfect Rose

Mary Jo Putney. Ivy Books, $10 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-449-00017-5

Hoping to exploit the success of Putney's Fallen Angels series, Fawcett is launching its first rack-size hardcover romance--small enough to fit on the mass market shelves at the local supermarket but durable enough to cost more. There were originally four ""dashing, complicated Regency rakes,"" as Putney once called the heroes of her Fallen Angels, but with the quartet finished in 1995, she has continued to write spinoffs--River of Fire and now this novel. Stephen, fifth Duke of Ashburton, seventh Marquess of Benfield, etc., learns that he has only a few more months to live. Widowed (the former duchess was a cold girl with a fondness for needlework) and childless, Stephen takes to the road to ponder his fate and joins a roving troupe of Midlands actors. In an uncharacteristic move for the dutiful duke, he asks one of the actresses, Rosalind (the ""perfect Rose"") to marry him and share his last weeks on earth. Veterans of historical romance will twig to Stephen's ""disease"" pretty quickly, but the hero and heroine figure it out a few tedious, gastric chapters later; meanwhile a sugarcoated out-of-body experience teaches him all about love. Like the other couples who inhabit this series--and for all their servants, swell clothes and cavernous residences--Stephen and Rose are basically a nice middle-class pair. Spies or thieves, gypsies or dukes, Putney's lovers are fundamentally alike: scratch those checkered pasts and you have the makings of a carpool. (June)