cover image A Lord Apart

A Lord Apart

Jane Ashford. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-6

The clunky second novel in Ashford’s Way to a Lord’s Heart Regency series (after Brave New Earl) delivers the expected ambience and wit, but falls notably flat on chemistry and dramatic tension. Stocky, commanding Daniel Frith, Viscount Whitfield, struggles to organize the papers of Frithgerd Hall after the sudden death of his absentee parents. He is especially confused to discover that his father has willed a cottage on the property to sylphlike Penelope Pendleton, the orphaned sister of an inept labor radical who was posthumously convicted of treason, though she has no apparent connection to the Whitfield family. Penelope’s skills in estate management and their mutual desire to understand her inheritance bring the reluctant pair into close quarters, while grief-chaser and social smoother Lord Macklin invites himself into the household and uses his connections to discover more about Penelope. Cute dogs, baking mishaps, investigative cleverness, and the construction of a bathtub provide fun moments, but Daniel and Penelope’s connection is forgettable, and Macklin is far too bland a matchmaker to serve as a linchpin for this series. This is a rare miss for the generally reliable Ashford. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary. (Apr.)