RUBY by Helen Ashfield


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Another Ashfield period-romance, short on atmosphere but heavy on woe--as a beautiful heroine slogs on and upward to a sunburst-happy ending. In 1790s Lancashire (textile-mill country), raven-haired Ruby--daughter of the housekeeper for impecunious, melancholy Sir Warren Askwith--is a cheerful 16, loving the small but exquisite Askwith house ""Waterfields."" And love catapults into Ruby's life when handsome gent Sebastion Clare is thrown from his horse: staring at Ruby, he's ""born anew."" But, as Ruby will eventually learn, Sebastion is really the son of the Marquis of Harworth (who exiled him to Lancashire to mend his rakehell ways); so true love will be variously thwarted. First, there's nasty, randy Lady Annora Eyre--who, like Katisha in The Mikado, has followed Sebastion with bedded bliss in mind: she must be placated before she spills the beans about his true identity. Furthermore, Lady Annora's foul fight-arm is greedy, low-born millowner Lionel Whitcombe, who's been after Sir Warren to sell him the aristocratic digs of Waterfields. And, meanwhile, wretched young mill-worker Molly Caudle's tragic career brings home to Ruby the punishing life of mill hands. Ruby's mother dies; ditto Sir Warren, who leaves Waterfields to Ruby. (Why? The predictable answer will not surface until the close.) So Whitcombe moves in to acquire Waterfields. But Ruby outwits him with some sacrificial arson--after which Whitcombe and Lady A. (now sex partners) really get evil: plotting to destroy Ruby's weaving career and Sebastion's mill-business, even bringing in a rapist to attack poor Ruby. And though Sebastion stumbles upon the rape scene and misreads (could it be possible that Ruby is not all she should be?), there'll be a traditional finale--with a killer on the trail, a rescue, and all secrets divulged. . . as Lady A. and Whitcombe slink away. Cheerfully busy--but as bland and predictable as tapioca.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's