Its 1812 and Lucy Rushton is in the family way without benefit of marriage. If that isnt bad enough, shes attending the funeral of her lover, killed in Wellingtons peninsular campaign. When Drake Strickland, Viscount Silverthorne, discovers his brother took advantage of Lucy, daughter of his estates vicar, and that shes with child, he immediately offers her marriage. He had not wanted to marry, but, for his tenants welfare, neither does he want his profligate cousins to inherit his estate.

Lucy, having no choice, accepts. On their wedding night, Drake arrives in her rooms to set up evidence to convince the household he has sired Lucys child. Its soon apparent that unexpected feelings are going to make their marriage of convenience an unusually trying proposition.

While Drake and Lucy struggle to deal with their personal conflicts, the cousins who will inherit if Lucy fails to conceive, plot against the marriage. The machinations of their endeavor do eventually separate Drake and Lucy, endangering Lucy and her unborn child in the process.

This exceptional Regency-era romance includes all the best aspects of that genre, plus higher sexual tension and a highly innovative plot. With a season in London, a kidnapping, winsome characters and an engaging love story, Deborah Hale has outdone herself to the complete advantage of the reader. SENSUAL (Dec., 350 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger