Desert Isle Keeper Review

The Perfect Waltz

Anne Gracie
2005, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Berkley, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425206807
Part of a series

Grade: A
Sensuality: Warm

The Perfect Waltz is the book to share with a friend who has never read a romance novel - consider adding it to your conversion kit. It represents the genre well, with likable characters who have hidden depths, a genuinely compatible hero and heroine, a secondary romance almost on a par with the main one, and a believable, complicated conflict.

Sebastian Reyne is at the end of his rope. His two young sisters, for whom he is responsible, are proving completely unruly, and Sebastian realizes he must commit to a marriage of convenience with a woman capable of raising the orphaned girls. Unfortunately, the woman he has chosen, the prim and austere Lady Elinore, fails to captivate him like the young, vivacious belle of London, Hope Merridew. Although Sebastian is positive a young lady as cheerful and spirited as Hope couldnít possibly have had a day of hardship in her life, the truth is that Hope and her sisters have only recently escaped from under the thumb of their tyrannical grandfather.

While his courtship of Lady Elinore falters, Sebastian is surprised to find that his sisters thrive under the care and friendship of the Merridew family. However, he remains convinced that the charitable Lady Elinore, with her years of experience working among orphans, would be a better choice for a wife as she is certain to have the fortitude to stick with his sistersí upbringing in the years to come. Although Hope is as attracted to Sebastian as he is to her, she knows he is courting Lady Elinore and determines to keep her distance, but the two of them develop feelings they are unable to hide. As they move in the same circles, contact between them is inevitable. Sebastian eventually realizes that not only will his life be meaningless without Hope, but that she astonishingly has feelings for him as well. Unfortunately, he has reached the point in his courtship where it would be cruel to Lady Elinore to simply abandon his attentions to her. As his best friend is willing to woo the prickly Elinore in Sebastian's stead, an exciting secondary romance is begun.

In a recurring dream of Hope's, she dances the final waltz of a ball with the most romantic and graceful partner, one who must be her one true love. She is positive she will know this man once they dance together, so she leaves the last waltz open and always dances it with a different partner. When she is in Sebastianís arms and he turns out to be a far cry from the glib and graceful partners she is used to, she is astute enough to realize that he is nervous around her. She is charmed by his lack of finesse because she knows that he is more genuine than anyone else she has danced with. She finally realizes her dream may be open to interpretation, and once she has begun to save the final waltz for Sebastian, it is too late for either of them to think of marrying anyone else.

Hopeís character is well thought out, for her outgoing personality and vivacious ways belie the cruelty she suffered at the hands of her grandfather, and it is clear that she knows exactly how to handle Sebastianís sisters, Cassie and Dorie. Unfailingly thoughtful and kind, she is also unaware of her own beauty. Sebastian has also had a difficult life, for although he was born into a wealthy family, his father was disinherited and later committed suicide after creating a scandal, leaving the young Sebastian responsible for the survival and well-being of his mother and siblings. He has only recently entered Society, and even then for the sole purpose of choosing a wife. Luckily Giles Pemberton, a friend from Sebastianís youth, is able to help him make his way in London and get him invited to all the important events. Sebastian is as likable as Hope because he genuinely cares about his family and will put their needs ahead of his own. He is always careful to behave correctly, such as when he refuses to behave callously toward Lady Elinore.

The story is particularly moving when Hope is alone with Sebastian and helps him realize that he will be happier and better able to help his sisters if he allows his feelings to show and follows his instincts. Sebastian has never had anyone care about him as much as Hope does, not even his deceased wife, and he literally gets teary-eyed (as did I) when he realizes he may still have a chance at having a happy family life. This book runs the gamut of emotions and each scene is well depicted. The chemistry between Hope and Sebastian is strong, and they are able to communicate well and are straightforward with each other. The love scenes are both tender and passionate. The primary and secondary characters each have enough background description that their actions and motives are realistic and believable. The ending was heartwarming, and IĎm looking forward to adding the rest of Anne Gracieís books to my permanent collection. Overall, The Perfect Waltz is a definite keeper, and is one of the best romances I have read in a long time.

-- Jessica Langlois

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