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    Review of THE VANISHING VISCOUNTESS by Diane Gaston (see her website)

    Harlequin Historicals #879, January 2008

    Bored and angry with himself, Adam Vickery (Tanner to his friends) watches a beautiful captive being brought from Ireland to England. When a storm breaks up the ship they're traveling on, Adam saves the woman, little suspecting that she is the notorious Marlena, the Vanishing Viscountess, accused of having murdered her late husband. The two manage to survive the storm and the ship-wreckers who watch from the shores in hopes of gathering plunder, but Marlena knows she cannot stay in England. Perhaps Scotland will be safe.

    Tanner feels an immediate attraction to the beautiful woman, and decides to help her with her escape. But Marlena refuses to tell him of her true identity--or that she harbored a crush for Tanner from the days of her youth. The two make their way through northern England, pursued by a Bow Street Runner and by Marlena's cousin--the real murderer and the man who stands as heir to her vast estates.

    Forced to stay off well-traveled roads, Tanner and Marlena have ample to time to explore the attraction that flows between them--and Marlena learns that not all men are as condemning of women with sexual appetites as was her husband.

    Set in Regency England, THE VANISHING VISCOUNTESS hints at the transitions England is going through after the Napoleonic war and with the beginning of the industrial revolution. Intriguingly, author Diane Gaston is careful to make all of her characters, even the antagonists, sympathetic. All of them love their wives and seek what they believe to be right.

    Tanner makes an appropriately tortured hero, filled with guilt over the deaths he believes his actions caused. Naturally, he is wealthy and wants nothing more than to protect Marlena and shower her with gifts (after all, what's the point of a Regency hero who doesn't do these things?). Marlena is intriguingly independent, but I would have liked to see a bit more character growth on her part. Some of her decisions were so frustratingly bad, I did have to wonder if there might not have been smarter ways to put her in the danger the plot demands. Still, Gaston's writing kept me involved in the story and reading on to see how Marlena could escape the noose that appears to await her.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 1/29/08

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