Regency connoisseurs are in for another remarkable reading experience courtesy of one of the most original and brilliant voices in the genre.

She is only a servant, and an indentured one at that. But with the very first lift of her chin, Emma Costello positively fascinates John Staples, Lord Ragsdale. Even though she's Irish to the core (and he hates the Irish), he can't help finding his cousin's maid the most interesting person he's met in a long, very boring while.

Still, nothing can come of this strange bond. He is, after all, a marquis. Then, through a bizarre stroke of fate, he saves her from a drunken lout, which in turn obligates her to repay her rescuer by helping him change his ne'er-do-well lifestyle in ways he never thought possible.

The award-winning Ms. Kelly triumphs once again in making a most unusual premise utterly credible through superb characterization, subtle wit and a truly exquisite emotional sensitivity. (Oct., 224 pp., $3.99)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer