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A Regency historical with a flawed hero, courtesy of newcomer James.

Since his return to London, Alex Foakes, the dashing Earl of Sheffield and Downes, is being called the “Ineligible Earl.” It seems his wanton Italian wife, who made his life miserable and cuckolded him frequently, had their marriage annulled on grounds of impotence—all in order to run away with a defrocked priest. So happy to leave the marital state that he willingly admitted to anything, Alex brings his infant daughter back to England after his divorced wife’s death from scarlet fever, amid silly rumors of his inability to continue to breed aristocrats. No one knows better that he is not a “floppy poppy” than Charlotte Calverstill, the youngest daughter of the Duke of Calverstill, whose virginity Alex took at a masquerade ball three years earlier, just before Charlotte was about to make her debut into the British ton, which she did in an ocean of blue delphiniums. Now a reigning beauty and an accomplished portrait painter, Charlotte is reunited with Alex (though he doesn't remember her, since they were both in costume). All is swell until Alex discovers that his passionate bride isn't a virgin. Having had a poor Italian experience, he abuses and humiliates Charlotte, then decides to consign her to his chilly Scottish castle for the rest of her life. And poor Charlotte can never seem to find the right time to tell him that he was her deflowerer. Though Alex changes his mind and the couple have a blissful year together, the floppy poppy once again becomes enraged when he decides that the baby he and Charlotte conceive together is in fact the child of his twin brother Patrick. Reversing himself yet again, Alex will at last wise up, just as Charlotte seems near death in childbirth.

James' tale is often bright and funny, though the reader may wish for a plot not driven solely by the whims of a shallow hero.

Pub Date: Aug. 10th, 1999
ISBN: 0-385-33360-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999


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