Candice Hern ~~ 4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews
Anthology (Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Candice Hern)
Following in the footsteps of their previous anthology, It Happened One Night, these brilliant authors once again spin four distinctly different stories from one plot, to the pleasure of the audience.
Second son Sebastian Trantor must marry to ensure the succession, but no girl on the marriage mart pleases him until one night when he witnesses Tabitha Makepeace looking for proof of a blackmail scheme. Tabitha enchants him, and while she thinks their improvised betrothal is an act, Sebastian schemes to make it real. Stephanie Laurens' "The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor" (****1/2) features all of the elements readers expect in her work, and still keeps it fresh and fun.
After a disastrous marriage, widow Cleo Pritchard doesn't believe that she will ever find love. But the man who kissed her during the war is back, and though Jack Gilchrist is handsome and a war hero, he seems genuinely interested in her. She must protect herself from getting hurt again, this time from loving too much. In "Only Love" (****1/2), Mary Balogh does her usual masterful job with characterization, creating empathetic characters in a short format.
Alec Trentwell seeks out Penelope Markham because her brother died under his command at Waterloo. She is currently in straitened circumstances, so he sweeps in to get her out of a rough part of London. While he offers her a portrait‑painting job, he really wants her to be his wife. However, a secret haunts him that he dreads sharing with her. Jacquie D'Alessandro shines in "Hope Springs Eternal" (****1/2), a beautiful and sometimes heart‑wrenching tale.
Captain Nat Beckwith needs a bride, but he dreads the rigors of the marriage mart and the crowds of Society. While hiding at a ball, he meets Philippa Reynolds, whose limp and overprotective family has her hiding as well. Being together gives them strength they would not have alone. Candice Hern's "Fate Strikes a Bargain" (****) is an appealing and touching tale.