The unique voice of Monique Ellis leads us into the outrageous politics of small village life in this diverting love story set in Regency England.

With Napoleon finally defeated for good, Colonel Stephen Gracechurch is at last coming home. Better yet, he's coming home a rich man thanks to several wise investments through the Rothschilds.

He has, however, a few scores to settle with the inhabitants of Chipham Common, especially with Lady Suzanne Phelps, the erstwhile fiance who allowed herself to be married off to a man almost old enough to be her grandfather.

All things considered, perhaps it would be best not to reveal his new wealth until he has the lay of the land, so to speak. Then, he can sweep his mother, a vicar's widow, off to a grand estate where she will never have to worry about anything again.

His plans start going awry almost immediately, when his return acts as the flashpoint in the strained relations between the widowed Suzanne and her greedy father, not to mention her equally greedy step-son. And Roderick soon finds himself trapped in a web of deception that only the great Wellington himself can resolve.

Ms. Ellis creates a truly memorable portrait of the byzantine relationships of a small community, totally involving us in the lives of a gaggle of sharply defined characters. Although the romantic relationship is sometimes submerged and the villains of the piece never seem to recognize their comeuppance, readers will revel in this unforgettable Regency tale. (Aug., 297 pp., $4.95)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer