January 2008, Regency Romance
Harl Historical #228, $5.99, 290 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373305370
Those who bemoan the loss of traditional Regencies or wish for books set in non-Regency settings with lower sensuality ratings should acquaint themselves with the mail-order only books from Harlequin Historicals. I have found a number of gems among the offerings in this line, and Lord Hadleigh's Rebellion certainly numbers among them.
Russell Chancellor, Lord Hadleigh, stands to inherit his father's title and lands, but he wants most what he cannot seem to have - his father's respect. Though Russell distinguished himself with his mathematical mind in his student days, this talent was never valued and his father never treated his input with any value. As an obedient son with no real role to play in the running of family affairs, Russell meandered through his twenties as little more than an ornament.
At his father's command, Russell finds himself at a country house party in order to procure a suitable wife. In addition to the suitable girl of his father's choosing, Russell finds himself face-to-face with the widow Mary Wardour, his long-lost love. As a university student, Russell studied with her father and fell in love with Mary, a gifted mathematician. However, though they vowed to marry, she wed another for reasons Russell never knew.
Though the initial meeting between them is awkward (and readers will guess the source of the problem long before the characters do), it quickly becomes obvious that the attraction between Russell and Mary never died. The two reluctantly renew their acquaintance and find themselves happy companions once again. Though Mary must deal with her past bitterness toward Russell and he still needs to find the strength to be his own man, the two work through these issues like mature and loving adults, and the result is a quiet and beautiful magic.
Russell is a fantastic hero. His insecurities and shortcomings seem every bit as real as his strengths and watching Russell learn to make his own decisions and live for himself makes the reader smile almost as much as the love story itself. Mary also makes a marvelous heroine. She is intelligent and strong, but also very much a lady. She never steps near the dreaded "feisty" territory and she manages to be a person of her time, while also commanding the reader's respect.
The secrets of the characters' pasts could have been explained a little better and there might have been less of a secondary character pairing-off festival at the end, but given my overall enjoyment of the story, these are minor quibbles. I have missed Regency trads and Lord Hadleigh's Rebellion provided me with a pleasurable read, indeed.
-- Lynn Spencer
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