The chuckles come fast and furiously as a handsome marquess and a free-spirited young lady get tangled up in murder most foul.

It has been a year since Randall Torrent, Marquess of Chilton, inexplicably broke his engagement with Miss Serenity Hoffenduffle. As he reluctantly drives his phaeton to his brother's wedding to Serenity's sister, he is still tormented by memories of the only woman he has ever loved.

Facts are facts, however. There is no denying that she showed up at a brothel in her night clothes and in the company of the very people he is investigating for the theft of Anglican church artifacts. Much as he wished it were not true, it is more than obvious that she is in league with the thieves.

For her part, Serenity has always believed herself to be the injured party. After all, it was Chilton who she discovered rolling around naked with a lady of questionable virtue in a place no loving fianc should be visiting.

But fate intervenes as the marquess comes across a carriage mishap that leaves Serenity the only survivor. Immediately attacked and pursued by a bevy of villains, they begin to realize that there is far more going on than either of them had previously suspected.

Ms. Jones uses a wonderful sense of the absurd to enhance physical comedy into true farce. Although the long passages of rapid fire interplay are not consistently paced with the external action, fans will appreciate the fiery chemistry between the two reluctant lovers. (Feb., 255 pp., $4.50)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer