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by Rosemary Stevens
Berkley Prime Crime, May 2002
291 pages
ISBN: 0425185397

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When Beau Brummell turns up at Oatlands, home of his dear friend Frederica, Duchess of York, he is devastated to discover that his valet, Robinson, has not yet arrived. He's not overly concerned for the valet's safety - rather the fact that Robinson has all the valises in the coach with him, requiring that Beau Brummell be confined to his room temporarily. After all, it would just not be the done thing for the Beau to appear in polite society improperly attired. Heavens no - the very thought sends me scurrying for the smelling salts. However, when Robinson does turn up, Beau discovers that not being able to dress for dinner is the least of his worries. Robinson has suffered the Regency equivalent of a car-jacking, and the dastardly highwayman has made off with an awe-inspiring array of finery and fripperies, not to mention a letter that could lead to disaster if it falls into the wrong hands.

This is the third in the Beau Brummell series, and the best yet. The plot is excellent and kept me guessing right up until the end. The various threads are tied up more neatly and with greater aplomb than one of Beau's renowned cravats. The language is sparkling and witty and by the end of the book I felt comfortably at home in Regency Society, with an overwhelming urge to use words like 'odsbodkins' and have my tailor make me fashionable, but tasteful, outfits in 107 different shades of blue.

But the major charm of this series is the characters. All the old favourites are here, and a couple of new favourites too. Brummell, Robinson, Frederica, the Lavenders, are all likeable people that you want to spend as much time with as possible. Each of the characters has their own distinctive voice, with that of Beau being completely endearing. A lot of the characters are real historical figures and I found myself wanting to learn more about their real lives now that Rosemary Stevens has put such a wonderfully human face to them. However, I have a suspicion that they wouldn't be as charming in real life as they are between the pages of this delightful book.

Reviewed by Donna Moore, May 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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