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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gifts Gone Astray by Linda Banche

Gifts Gone Astray by Linda Banche
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (103 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Freesia

A gift is a wonderful surprise. Or maybe not.

At the Earl of Langley's family gathering, everyone receives a gift, including the servants. Tutor Stephen Fairfax expects a small token, but the present from family member Mrs. Anne Copley, the widow who has caught his eye, is a dream come true.

Until he opens it. What a gift! How did that demure lady acquire such a book? And she wants to "study" the positions in it with him? If he accepts her offer, tempting as it is, he could lose his job.

Anne has no idea why Mr. Fairfax is in such a flutter. Her present is a simple book of illustrations. The subject interests them both, and she would like nothing better than to examine the book—and Mr. Fairfax—more closely.

A Regency screwball comedy? Linda Banche’s latest romantic offering, Gifts Gone Astray, comes pretty darn close. As her title implies, a round of gift giving gone wrong leads to mayhem for several couples and the ensuing mistaken intentions make for some of the funniest situations you could find in a Regency Romance.

Despite the setting of an English country manor and the presence of many members of the nobility, the hero and heroine of the book are ordinary people, a tutor and the widow of a scholar. I especially liked this combination, because more than just the aristocracy populated Regency England. We need to be reminded that the common folk too have wonderful romances to tell. This couple, Anne and Stephen, are a perfect match, if only they can overcome those around them—her brother, his employer, a jealous suitor, and a bratty child—to realize their affections.

The comedy that runs throughout the book will have you laughing out loud (I certainly did) as the mistaken present looms ever larger in Stephen’s mind. His musings on just how they are to use the gift, coupled with the hilarious action-packed scene when the mistake is revealed, makes for a fun read that will have you turning pages frantically trying to keep up.

One qualm I did have was with some of Banche’s language. She obviously knows her Regency terms and references, which may be part of the problem. Expressions such as havey-cavey and cork-brained, exclamations of “by Jupiter” and “Capital!” and references to Regency places, like Astley’s Amphitheatre, all correctly paint the period. They are used, however, too frequently in the work. I found myself being pulled out of the story by these unusual terms and, although I was able to immediately return to the Regency world, they interrupted the flow of the book, thus reducing my overall enjoyment of the experience.

The only other disappointing aspect was the somewhat heavy-handed introduction of a linking thread in the character of Mr. Pratt. His appearance seemed a bit convenient for my taste, although the character and his actions were well portrayed.

Although I do not often read romantic comedies, I frequently watch them at the movies and am charmed by their joie de vivre. That joy and comic spirit are wonderfully alive in the characters and action of Gifts Gone Astray. If you’d like to experience laughter as the hero and heroine fall in love, this is the book to read!