PEARL by Helen Ashfield


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Ashfield tosses three venerable standbys--a blast of everlasting love at first sight, the one-shot pregnancy, and a cruel earl on troubled waters--into this familiar brew of period pash featuring young orphan Pearl Cartwright, whose proud mother (widow, washerwoman) has just died. So Pearl moves in with lively, generous Aunt Cissy, owner of a draper's shop in London. (Cissy, long parted from her secret love, aristocrat Claud, lives on memories and old love-letters.) And Pearl soon turns into a lustrous London beauty, attracting the attention of the two sons of glowering Earl Rossmorton: the Earl's beloved heir Bruce; and much-hated son James (who reminds the Earl of his late, supposedly unfaithful wife). Bruce, the nasty one, rapes Pearl--impregnating her, of course, before dying himself. The grieving Earl is then determined to acquire Bruce's babe from Pearl: reluctant henchman James arranges for some theft and blackmail involving dear Aunt Cissy's cache of scandalous loveletters. But James is by this time thoroughly ashamed and deeply in love with Pearl! (And vice-versa!) What about James' engagement to Lady Mary Mancroft--herself enraptured with the impecunious Sir Vincent de Lorne? What about the Earl's loathing for James, now his heir? A series of confrontations and truth-tellings clears the clouds (and loosens the Earl's purse-strings)--before the close of this amiable, routine costume-mellerdrama.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's