THE RAVENSLEY TOUCH by Constance Heaven

THE RAVENSLEY TOUCH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Picking up, more or less, where Lord of Ravensley (1978) left off, veteran Heaven again shows her bouncy, agreeable predilection for tangled bloodlines, high-strong coincidences, and long-suffering damsels. It's now the 1850s, and Laurel Falcone--oppressed, orphaned step-daughter of a slimy Italian count--runs away from the Falcone manse in Rome. . . and just happens to be rescued from bandits by vacationing young Dr. Jethro Aylsham of England, who offers to escort Laurel to her rich old London grandpa. Well, as readers of Lord of R. may remember, this is quite a coincidence--because Laurel's dead mother Alyne was the cause of endless Aylsham family scandals and jealousies. In fact, as Laurel soon learns to her horror, Jethro (whom she passions for) may very well be her uncle! There's lots of tension, then, when Jethro benevolently installs Laurel with his assorted, somewhat cruel cousins at Ravensley; moreover, Jethro flees to Vienna when the near-incest possibilities mount. But then Laurel inherits her grandpa's fortune--which makes her a tempting target for her two non-inheriting suitor-cousins: evil Barton, who will eventually kidnap Laurel to a brothel (Jethro saves her), and nice George--whom Laurel will marry when one might of incest/bliss with Jethro seems to sour their love forever. Thus, in the novel's last section, everyone winds up in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale: Jethro is doctoring there; George is soldiering (as is Jethro's cousin Robin, who also adores Laurel); Laurel goes along to be a loyal wife--but really to be near Jethro. And things work out terribly neatly at the end, with George dying in the Charge of the Light Brigade just about the time that Laurel and Jethro (who nearly gets shot on a phony spying charge) discover evidence that they're not uncle and niece! (The ""Ravensley Touch,"" however, continues: Laurel's newborn daughter, though sired by Jethro, will bear George's name.) Bustling foolishness--but briskly, pleasantly delivered in the familiar Heaven manner.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan