Signet's newest diamond of the first water takes our breath away with a beguiling romance of a rakish earl and the one woman who refuses to fall at his feet.

Mark Allan Parrish, seventh Earl of Bridgeport, is a man of many parts, few of which he advertises to the general public. After all, he still is dodging the sobriquet of the Curst Lord bestowed upon him by the ton after his young bride left him standing at the altar. No, the dashing gentleman has no intention of revealing his secret identity as Thornton, a famed poet and man of letters.

Miss Elaine Thompson is more than content residing in Cornwall with her friend and former teacher as she rejoices in a commission to illustrate Thornton's eagerly anticipated new collection of poems. Then disaster strikes, when the one man who can ruin her utterly turns out to be the long absent owner of the neighboring estate.

Bridgeport, however, has more than enough troubles of his own as he tries to get to the bottom of a scurrilous set of rumors that have harried him into rustication. And in a bizarre twist of fate, it is Miss Thompson to whom he must turn for help to discover the truth.

Ms. Lane is a formidable talent who hits her stride perfectly in this witty and intelligent diversion. Bon mots, indeed! (Apr., 224 pp., $5.50)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer