THE HIDDEN HEART
Take a brooding, hostile duke and a strong-willed, outspoken governess and you have an appealing romance by the always clever Candace Camp.
Since his wife and child perished in a carriage accident, Richard, Duke of Claybourne, has buried himself in drink, self-pity and thoughts of suicide. His careful plans to end his life are thwarted when Jessica Maitland arrives at Castle Carlyle with Richard's ward, Gabriella Carstairs.
Gabriella's great uncle, who is near death, stipulated that Gabriella go to Claybourne where she will be safe from the treachery of his nephew, Lord Vesey, who plans to steal the girl's inheritance.
Richard has no desire to be responsible for anyone, certainly not a girl who reminds him of his dead daughter. But Jessica will not take no for an answer, not when she has sworn to protect Gabriella.
Richard does not know what to make of Jessica or his strange attraction to her. However, Vesey's arrival puts them all in an interesting position, and when it appears a killer is stalking the halls of the castle, Richard and Jessica join forces to find out just what is going on.
This is a suspense tale with a witty twist. The intriguing characters and some of their antics (especially the Vesey's determination to claim Gabriella) add a different touch to a gothic-style romance that keeps readers intrigued and guessing. This underlying humor and the unexpected turns of plot will certainly satisfy readers looking for a smile. SENSUAL (Aug., 416 pp., $6.99)