Once again Nancy Butler establishes herself as a writer of rare grace in this fresh version of a classic theme in Regency romance.

It starts with a dead man. A young travelling actress finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time when she witness a struggle between two strangers and the subsequent death of one of them. Running away seems to be the only sensible thing to do, even if it lands her in the clutches of the neighborhood rake.

Fortunately, the spirited Lady Jemima Vale, is in temporary residence at the local inn. She could certainly provide proper chaperonage, if Mr. Beecham Bryce, libertine extraordinaire, can only persuade her and her brother to accept his hospitality.

And so begins an unusual house party in which Bryce discovers that his heart is not immune to love after all. But can he convince the lovely Lady Jemima that his love can be true? And even if he can, does he have any right to ask her to link her name to that of a notorious rake?

A consummate craftsman who individualizes her characters with piquant detail, Ms. Butler justifies her meteoric rise to prominence in a genre that demands the very best of writing. (Apr., 216 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer