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Though the marrying-off of the Reverend Armitage's second daughter doesn't have the freshness and wit of Minerva (p. 674), it's pleasant to meet up again with the irreverent Rev, his cronies, and that brass-band Malaprop, Lady Godolphin--a distant relative and Minerva's aged, naughty patron. (Even here, however, there's a falling off-with overkill in the verbal howlers.) The ingenue this time: Annabelle, 17, uncommonly pretty and uncommonly brattish--who has a monstrous tendre for none other than Lord Sylvester, Minerva's betrothed; she's sure that Sylvester's making a dreadful mistake in marrying such a ""prim"" sister. Minerva herself, however, far from prim and ever more beautiful, is unaware of Annabelle's roiling fantasies--and unwisely invites her to the estate of Sylvester's parents, the Duke and Duchess of Allsbury. And soon the stunning Annabelle is a stunning pain--trotting out what she believes to be fashionable slang (earthy prison talk, in fact), evading Minerva's supervision, and pursuing Sylvester. . . until the horrible truth dawns. He is in love with Minerva! At that point, then, ""jealousy, horrible, green-eyed, sealed and clawed,"" takes hold--as Annabelle impulsively flirts with pleasant Peter, the Marquess of Brabington, accepting his marriage proposal. So there's a double wedding, with a dandy wedding night for Annabelle. . . until she pants out the wrong name in passion! Her new husband hurtles from the house, of course; Rev. Armitage and his chum Squire Radford have to go into Mr. Fixit action--with conferences and planning sessions. And thus the Taming of Annabelle gets underway--with the Marquess pointedly ignoring her, to strong effect: the bride is jealous, gets a few nasty surprises (she winds up dangling in a tree at one point). . . and is ready, at last, for a melting reconciliation. Lively enough, with Chesney's asides on Regency fashion, places and people, and the gormless Royal Family--even if a comedown after the sparkling Minerva. (Perhaps daughter #3, Deirdre, will pick up the pace in the next Armitage marriage-mart episode.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's