by MacLean, Sarah

Lady Alexandra Stafford shows no interest in the pleasures enjoyed by Regency London society, preferring to seek adventure as she helps the devilishly handsome Gavin investigate the murder of his father, the Earl of Blackmoor.

Sarah MacLean grew up in Rhode Island, where she spent much of her free time bemoaning the fact that she was more than a century too late for her own Season. She currently lives in New York with her husband, their dog, and a ridiculously large collection of romance novels. She is currently at work on her second novel.

MacLean s debut plays with English high society: girls in swishy-satiny fabrics at balls; brooding, port-swilling boys; chaste but thrillingly clandestine kisses; and, oh yeah, a murder mystery. If this sounds like the makings of a Regency-romance primer for the middle-school set, that s not far off. Alex, no blushing maiden, approaches her first "season," when she is officially up for sale on the meat market, and balks at the idea of being married off to the highest bidder. But her mother insists that she marry well. It s a good thing she begins to notice her brothers closest friend, Gavin, er, Lord Blackmoor. She notices his broad shoulders, gray eyes, and the knot in his cravat. She even notices his odd behavior around her, which obviously is nothing more than his worry that his father s "accidental" death wasn t all that accidental. Alex proceeds to do a lot more noticing en route to solving the mystery, as does Gavin. Bottom line: this is a good suggestion for readers looking for a PG version of a bodice ripper. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Jane Austen meets Trixie Belden. Lady Alexandra Stoddard is an anachronism-a feisty, outspoken feminist in Regency England. But the 17-year-old's impassioned resistance to courtship and marriage rings false from page 23, with the introduction of the ploddingly obvious object of her reluctant but inevitable affections, her brothers' best friend Gavin Sewell, the Earl of Blackmoor. Alex's insatiable curiosity further complicates her relationship with Gavin; suspecting that he's in danger, she's determined to solve the puzzle of his father's recent suspicious death, despite Gavin's objections. Formulaic plotting, repetitive phrasing and scant development of supporting characters, such as Alex's rival Penelope, weaken the story. But the novel is grounded in both historical context (Napoleon's escape from Elba and the anonymous publication of Austen's novels) and historical detail (ball gowns and the rigors of etiquette), which set the scene convincingly. MacLean's lively characters, however improbable, provide a fun and unrestrained take on a buttoned-up era, and readers who choose to give themselves up to the tale will enjoy it. (Mystery/historical fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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