The outstanding talent of Anne Barbour is on impressive display in this provocative tale of love and manners.

Miss Hester Blayne is more than content with her life as England's premier feminist. She is accustomed to the scorn and ridicule her beliefs inspire in the majority of the populace, but now that she is financially independent, she can largely ignore the male attitudes that so constrict female life.

That changes upon the arrival one morning of the rude and overbearing Charles Trent, fifth earl of Bythorne, who accuses her of hiding his young ward. To her chagrin, there turns out to be some truth to his claim. Recognizing, however, that the lady is the key to persuading his charge to accept the suitor he has so carefully cultivated, the earl offers Hester an irresistible bargain to accompany them back to London.

Will her feminist convictions withstand the attentions of one of London's most notorious rakes?

Ms. Barbour is in splendid form in this beautifully crafted love story, striking just the right thematic note with intricately wrought characterization that will win your heart. (Nov., 256 pp., $5.50)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer