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REVIEW Spies, treachery and a love that makes history



Published: Sat, April 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



It's a fast-paced story that perhaps, at times, is a bit too fast.

By LEZLIE PATTERSON

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

"Shall We Dance" by Kasey Michaels; Harlequin ($6.99 paperback)

Kasey Michaels has a bit of fun playing "what if" in her latest book, which fleshes out a skeleton of historical fact with lots of historical romance fiction. Some of the characters are real -- such as Queen Caroline. And some of the circumstances are real.

Of course the heroine, Amelia, and hero, Perry, aren't. But by the time you finish the book, you'll wonder.

Amelia has lived with Caroline her entire life. She was told that her mother, one of Caroline's servants, died in childbirth and that the queen (then princess) informally adopted her.

Amelia has remained steadfast and loyal to Caroline, even when the princess returned to England to do battle with her husband, the yet-to-be crowned king. Seems politicians want to discredit Caroline so the king can divorce her and prevent the eccentric woman from being crowned queen. Perry, a government-spy type, is recruited to get the dirt on Caroline so the king can get his divorce.

Perry finds the job distasteful for more than one reason. And when he meets Amelia, no way will he hurt or betray her. Or has he already?

An interesting cast of characters gathers at the queen's residence to help/hurt/protect/betray her. Figuring out who is doing what is up to Perry. Figuring out how to keep Amelia safe and happy is up to Perry. And figuring out how to convince Amelia that he's not the unscrupulous cad he has tried so hard to convince the world he is, also is up to Perry.

Basically, he has to earn her trust.

"Shall We Dance?" is a fast-paced story that perhaps, at times, is a bit too fast. It pulls you in and keeps you interested. But by the end, you'll realize you didn't read enough mushy stuff about Amelia and Perry.

How it stacks up

Overall rating: 3-plus of 5 hearts. Following the love lives of three couples is sort of fun, but it dilutes the romance between Amelia and Perry.

Hunk appeal: 10. Sometimes Perry is a little too good at masquerading as a fribble -- a word he uses to describe himself. He does prove his mettle as a hero by the end. Amelia overreacts when she laments his dishonesty, but Perry is patient and understanding.

Steamy-scene grade: XXX. Proves his mettle, but doesn't dwell on it.

Happily-Ever-After: Good. Amelia and Perry get their happily-ever-after, but unfortunately, Queen Caroline doesn't get hers. Of course, there's only so much rewriting of history Michaels can do.

Dusty shelf

Many great romance novels have been written through the years. It's worth dusting off these oldies.

"A Loving Scoundrel" by Johanna Lindsey is the latest in the Malory series. No historical-romance series compares to Lindsey's stories about the unconventional, witty, rich and large English family. The characters' personalities make these books endearing and automatic romantic classics.

In "A Loving Scoundrel," not only do we get a long visit with Jeremy -- who has charmed us since we first met the Malory clan in 1985 -- but we also get to renew our acquaintance with other members of the family.

Jeremy has continued tradition by being a notorious rake, vowing never to marry. But like the men in his family before him, he finds a woman who makes him give up that vow for wedding vows.

Part of what makes this an exceptional series is Lindsey's ability to make each story unique while keeping the wonderful personalities of the characters consistent and true. She manages to find the perfect heroine or hero for each Malory, and this story is no exception.

Danny is a thief with no memory of her early childhood or true identity. When Jeremy makes her lose her home, she demands he give her a job. The job he offers, as mistress, isn't what she has in mind. And she refuses. But she can't resist that Malory charm forever.

And as it turns out, Jeremy can't resist her either.

As is typical with Lindsey's books, the banter is witty, and the antics keep you smiling. The romance? Frustrating at times, passionate at others and perfectly tender at just the right times.




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