LOVERS' VOWS by Joan Smith


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Holly McCormack, 26-year-old orphan niece of nouveau fiche Lord and Lady Proctor, is ""not a bad-looking girl,"" plain in every respect--which makes her a fairly refreshing heroine for Regency romance. Maid-of-all-work Holly does have, however, a beautiful sensuous voice. So when dashing Lord Dewar, that clever, ""blue"" (intellectual) bachelor, comes down from London to spend some time at his nearby estate and put on Romeo and Juliet, he wants Holly to take part . . . though Holly's beautiful young cousin Jane, the Juliet, seems to have won Dewar's heart. And Holly reluctantly agrees, using the opportunity to cajole Dewar into doing more charitable things for the community. But the play rehearsals soon prove something of a trial (Dewar's cronies are shy on talent), with a couple of unwanted suitors for Holly: Dewar's chubby little sidekick Rex, who switches his adoration from Jane to Holly when the latter nurses him back to health from an injury; and Dewar's cousin Sir Swithin Idle, a super-fop who's designing the costumes for the play and who speaks a Truman Capote/Miss Piggy patois (""I shall design it moi-meme . . .""). Still, it's clear from the start that Dewar and Holly are meant for each other, and after much congenial verbal sparring, he convinces her that he loves her . . . and not just for her Lady Capulet voice. No, this isn't as steadily engaging as Smith's best, perhaps: there's hardly a twist after the opening chapters. But readers who prefer their frolics with a bit of grit and tartness (Dewar's mum is a leathery countess who discusses constipation) will continue to find Smith a welcome presence.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1981
Publisher: Walker