The bright shining star of Allison Lane offers another treat for Regency connoisseurs.

It was not supposed to happen. When Damon, the young heir to the earl of Devlin, accompanied his best friend Peter to serve in Wellington's army, he fully expected both of them to return. But a bullet puts an end to Peter's life and a tragic accident at home elevates him to the earldom. So painful is the association with his former home that he gratefully accepts the assurances of his deceased friend's uncle that Peter's young sister's future has been secured.

Years later, on his first visit back to the family estate, he makes a horrible discovery. Catherine is not a happily married woman. Instead, as a poor relation, she has been turned into a drudge by her uncle's family. And now Damon must make the most difficult decision of his life: to withdraw from his all but official betrothal to a beauty of the ton and fulfill his obligation to his friend by offering Catherine the protection of marriage.

Under such circumstances, is there any hope for happiness?

Ms. Lane writes with a blistering emotional intensity that will totally involve the reader with her complex, very human characters. The result is a superior love story that will linger in your memory like fine wine. (Nov., 220 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer