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Innocent Passions
Brenda Hiatt
Avon
ISBN: 0060507586
February 2003
Historical Romance

Rowena Riverstone has impetuously decided to go to London. Now that she has finally reached the age of majority, she does not need to get her brother’s permission anymore. She has her maid with her. Rowena has been writing essays to the Political Register under the initials of MRR and is hoping that she can obtain some information for further essays. Her father would never allow her to come to London, he claimed that she was too outspoken. Her brother, Sir Nicholas Riverstone, feels the same. Needless to say, he is somewhat surprised when Rowena shows up at his doorstep with no prior warning. Rowena is planning on writing to childhood friend, Lady Pearl Hardwyck, which she does and she receives the expected invitation to stay with Pearl.

Noel Paxton has recently been informed that the infamous Black Bishop is alive and in London. Noel was a spy during the war and the Black Bishop was responsible for the death of many of his friends. The Black Bishop was also one of the worst traitors that England had. Noel has made it his personal goal to see the Black Bishop caught, and he is planning on doing the catching. Noel does have one clue, the essays that MRR had published in the Political Register use the same phrases that the Black Bishop has used in his correspondence. The handwriting is also very similar. Noel uses the excuse of catching the Saint of the Seven Dials as his excuse to work with the Bow Street Runners. Noel knows that the Saint of the Seven Dials is no longer working, and Noel knows who he is. The Saint of the Seven Dials is a thief that steals from the rich and supports families in the infamous Seven Dials. This thief is none other than Lord Hardwyck and Noel plans to visit him and get what information he can about him. When Noel visits with Lord Hardwyck, he decides to take over the Saint’s persona. Lord Hardwyck has decided to help him in order to catch the Black Bishop.

Pearl has decided that since Rowena has finally come to London, she will give Rowena a makeover and show her a good time. Pearl decides to have a party, with balls and all kinds of activities. Pearl has decided that the perfect time for Rowena’s transformation will be at the first Ball. Mr. Paxton is also a guest at Lord Hardwyck’s home. Noel challenges Rowena to a game of chess and is shocked when he almost loses to her! He begins to notice little things about her and is surprised to find himself attracted to her. The day of the Ball, Rowena stays in her room. Naturally, the plain ugly duckling is transformed into a beautiful swan the night of the Ball. She has even forsaken her spectacles for the evening.

Now, things start getting interesting as Noel tries to discover just who the mysterious MRR is and Rowena does whatever she can to try to stop Noel from identifying and capturing the Saint of the Seven Dials.

Noel Paxton is quite an interesting character. He worked as a spy during the war with France, but his mother is French. He is a very strong male and has rather unusual viewpoints on things. He believes in gradual change and the equality of women. He has managed to stay alive by his wits alone more times than he cares to remember. He finds himself becoming attracted to Rowena, and hopes to use her to get information about the Black Bishop. At first, Noel suspects that her brother is involved with the Black Bishop and uses her to gain an acquaintance with him. He begins to realize that he is just trying to come up with excuses to spend more time with Rowena. Rowena, on the other hand, is very much a liberal. Her viewpoints are all very black and white to her and she refuses even to acknowledge that there may be a gray. When at her brother’s estate, she always dressed very plainly and kept her hair in a bun. She is just beginning to realize that there is power in being feminine and is surprised by her success. She still has trouble controlling her tongue. Rowena is attracted to Noel but decides that she won’t act upon that attraction until she can persuade him to her point of view. She doesn’t feel that they have anything in common. The secondary characters in this story are just as well written. Rowena’s friend, Pearl, is a beautiful woman that married for love. She is devoted to Rowena and looks after her as best she can, right down to encouraging Rowena to lose to men. She very gently hints that men do not like to lose to women. She makes Rowena realize that there other methods that women can use to make changes in society.

This is quite the Regency tale, filled with spies and thieves and poverty. You will find everything that you expect in a Regency: balls, beautiful clothing, maids and valets, and especially the danger and the mysteries to be solved as we join the adventure with Rowena and Noel as they solve the mystery of the Black Bishop. This is a very exciting story that will entertain you from the first page through the very last one. I definitely recommend reading this one.

Chere Gruver, August 2003

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