cover image Last Gentleman Standing

Last Gentleman Standing

Jane Ashford. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-5527-5

While Ashford’s fans wait for the finale of the Duke’s Sons series, they will be somewhat placated by this refresh of a lighthearted Regency romance from her early backlist (published in 1980 as Bluestocking), a story about the terrible behavior that accompanies obsessive quests for money. Miss Elisabeth Elham is 24 when a sudden fortune is left solely to her by an unknown but reportedly unpleasant uncle. She calls her two struggling young cousins to join her in London for a coming-out season while she arranges for the restoration of the country estate. Though she isn’t looking to marry, bachelors attracted by her fortune outnumber new friends who make pleasant company. Though Ashford has updated the prose and it shows her usual smooth flow and wit, the plot leans heavily on period romance tropes, such as the embarrassingly scatterbrained Cousin Lavinia and moody bluestocking Jane Taunton. These characters exhibit Ashford’s hallmark eccentricity, but their antics are only amusing with little warmth, and the man Elisabeth finally chooses is merely less awful than the others, rather than expressing or eliciting any particular affection. This is a perfectly fine diversion, but much more forgettable than Ashford’s more recent work. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary. (Sept.)