Hero, Come Back
Hero, Come Back offers starring roles in short stories to secondary characters from previous books by Stephanie Laurens, Elizabeth Boyle, and Christina Dodd. I haven’t read any of the books these characters originally appeared in, but I wasn’t lost at all. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very entertained. This was a mostly forgettable book.
Lost and Found
- by Stephanie Laurens
Grade : C Sensuality : Warm
Stephanie Laurens has top billing and the shortest story with Lost and Found. Reggie Carmarthen, introduced in the 9th of the Bar Cynster series - On a Wild Night - is getting older, he's about to inherit a title, his mother is dropping hints about his duty to the family, and almost all his friends are married. Actually Reggie would like a wife, but the silly little fluffs at Almack's hold no charm for him. One day he runs into Anne Ashford, a lady he knows slightly. Anne is patroness of a foundling home and has a young boy with her who bears the look of the Duke of Portsmouth's family. Anne plans to find out who the child's father is, and Reggie gets drawn into her crusade. Anne is no silly miss, and Reggie finds love.
This story is very short, very slight, and very forgettable. Reggie and Anne were fine, intelligent characters, but they were pencil sketches, not fully painted figures.
The Matchmaker's Bargain
- by Elizabeth Boyle
Grade : B- Sensuality : Warm
Elizabeth Boyle has the longest story, The Matchmaker's Bargain and the extra length gives her room to develop the characters. This novella, part of Boyle's Danvers series, is the anthology's best story.
As a young man, James Reyburn was quite a figure in London Society. But when he came back from Badajoz with a scarred face and a lame leg, he retreated to his home village, Bramley Hollow, and became a recluse. Bramley Hollow is home to Esme, a matchmaker. If you visit her and give her money, you will find your heart's desire. This is what Amanda Preston inadvertently does. She is running off to Brighton (her reasons are eye-rollingly inane) and thinks she is paying a kind old lady for her hospitality. Then she meets James, and finds her heart's desire.
This story is a bit silly and I've read it a hundred times before, but it's sweet and James and Amanda are both pleasant characters.
The Third Suitor
- by Christina Dodd
Grade : C- Sensuality : Warm
Christina Dodd gives us an English spy (yawn) in a farcical tale of misunderstood identity in The Third Suitor. When Harry Chamberlain, Earl of Granville (and secondary player in Lost in Your Arms), stops at an inn, he meets a pretty young woman crawling through the shrubbery. She is Lady Jessie McMillan, whose father has given her an ultimatum - pick a husband from three suitors or he will pick for her. Harry gives Jessie a false name, and they talk and flirt in a way no early Victorian miss would ever do. She meets the first two suitors (who are both revolting), then asks Harry to make love to her, which they do. Finally, it's time to meet the last suitor, who introduces himself as Lord Granville (much to Harry's surprise).
This is a complex farce that's a bit like some that Barbara Metzger does so well, and it is fast and funny. But there were two big problems I had with this story. First, it was stale - English spies are a dime a dozen and Harry had nothing special to recommend him (except his valet, who was charming and much more interesting than Harry.) Secondly, historical heroines who act more like Paris Hilton than Jane Bennett are, to me, totally off-putting. Jessie was a gently reared girl but she was practically begging Harry to deflower her – it just wasn't done that way.