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 Romancer Halliday, a.k.a. Ena Halliday and Louisa Rawlings, debuts in hardcover with a watered-down bondage-and-domination tale set in 18thcentury England. It's 1724, and Allegra Baniard, an indentured servant in the Colonies who overheard her mother being raped every night for five years (``gasping in pain and grief as Squire Pringle violated her frail body''), has returned to Shropshire to murder the knave responsible for her family's decline. Disguised as a boy, the 18- year-old Allegra attempts to stab John Wickham, the villain who usurped Baniard Hall, her ancestral home, but instead mistakenly aims her blade at Sir Greyston Morgan, Viscount Ridley, the drunkard who bought the hall after Wickham's death. Ridley rescues Allegra from a whipping by exposing her as a female; she then agrees to become his bonded servant for a year while plotting her revenge against the surviving Wickham. Allegra works as Ridley's still-room maid, fixing him cordials, marzipan, and herbal remedies; he promises to seduce her into his bed. Ridley has become a coarse, gin-soaked wretch because of the guilt he feels over the deaths of his wife and unborn child. But with her love, Allegra rehabilitates the brave knight beneath the monstrous manner; she even finds him doing penance at a hospice in nearby Ludlow. Later, Allegra flees Baniard Hall (she drugs the dogs) in order to avenge her family against Wickham's heir, a nice young man who regrettably dies defending Allegra's honor against a lascivious band of smugglers. Their respective wounds finally healed, ``Grey'' and Allegra retire to Baniard Hall to live happily ever after. Filled with lewd pinching, seduction with a whip handle, threatened spankings, and rapes: more like bowdlerized hard-core than good historical romance.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8217-4922-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Kensington
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995