Karyn Monk, . . Bantam, $5.99 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-553-58440-0

This overwrought follow-up to Monk's Victorian-era saga, The Prisoner, begins with a bang—or, rather, a thud—as young American heiress Amelia Belford jumps from a church balcony to escape an arranged wedding to an avaricious, aged duke. In record time, the runaway bride commandeers the carriage and heart of hot-tempered Jack Kent and the fugitive pair head toward the home of the man Amelia thinks she loves, foppish Lord Philmore. When it's revealed that Philmore is really a homosexual fortune-hunter, the two make another spectacular exit and escape to Jack's house in the Scottish highlands. Jack's siblings and servants are all reformed rogues like himself, and they help Amelia become self-sufficient. Meanwhile, Jack contends with saboteurs who are determined to sink his shipping business. Neither of the protagonists are particularly appealing: Jack is a violent, homophobic man with an inferiority complex, and foolhardy Amelia puts up not only with Jack's bad attitude and angry outbursts but also his maltreatment (their two sexual encounters verge on rape). While this twisted relationship won't bother fans of old style bodice-rippers, more modern readers may be hard-pressed to make it past the protagonists' first "intimate" encounter. (Mar. 11)