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The ""lady of independence"" in this surprisingly freewheeling Regency romance is Astera Claybourne, a young bluestocking with literary ambitions who (defying the best efforts of her guardian Lord Winthrop) rejects the marriage proposal of Viscount Weston, ""society's most sought after beau."" The Viscount is furious and, vowing to win her over, he (with air-headed chum Cuffy, a young-Nigel-Bruce type) goes for a visit to Lord Winthrop's estate. Much verbal sparring ensues--as the Viscount tries to make Astern jealous by courting fashionable Sybil Farnshorn. . . while Astern outrages all with her indecent poetry, her disdain for fancy-dress, and her put-downs of the Viscount. And, though the two almost find some amused common ground (laughing at Cuffy, for instance), they end up insulting each other mightily. Then, round two: the Viscount invites Lord W. & Co. to share his holiday in the Greek isles--where Astern, in fact, has an old flame in Greek sculptor/ freedom-fighter Andreas. So things soon get complicated: the Viscount is infuriated by Astera's switch to Greek fashion and her warm response to Andreas (also to Lord Byron himself, whom they all visit); Astera in fact rejects Andreas' lustful advances, causing him, vengefully, to ruin her good name; and the Viscount will at last have to abduct Astera aboard his boat before these made-for-each-other lovers can finally come to terms. (There's also an extra tussle involving Lord W.'s pending marriage to Sybil and Andreas' near-seduction of her.) Some very funny moments, an unusual variety in the backgrounds--and in all, despite overdone bits and a slightly sluggish pace, a divertingly offbeat, fairly ""blue"" change from the Regency routine.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday