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Where the Heart Leads: From the Casebook of Barnaby Adair    by Stephanie Laurens order for
Where the Heart Leads
by Stephanie Laurens
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Where the Heart Leads begins in 1835 in London, which means the setting is past the Regency period. However, the story is faithful to Regency plots: beautiful young woman who doesn't want to marry or isn't quite genteel enough to attract the handsome, eligible, wealthy, powerful, confirmed bachelor who enters her life at the beginning of the book, but we all know that everything will turn out right in the end. The biggest difference between that plot and this book is that there is a mystery in this story that both the hero and heroine are attempting to solve.

Penelope Ashford certainly doesn't lack any advantage that would make her a much pursued bride, as she is a beautiful young woman with a mother who insists on taking her out to parties and dinners on a regular basis, hoping she'll meet a husband. Penelope is determined never to marry, though, mainly because she has found a vocation that she loves. She has helped start, and continues to oversee, a foundling home for impoverished orphans. Penelope is alarmed when one by one, four of the boys who were to come into her care after the death of their surviving guardians, are nowhere to be found when her agents go to claim them. She enlists the aid of Barnaby Adair, an earl's son who has made a name for himself solving crimes.

As wealthy as he is good-looking, Barnaby is equally averse to marriage. His reasons are much like Penelope's. Neither one of them thinks that they could ever find a person of the opposite sex who would share their interests and allow them to pursue their unusual, for the times, avocations. Both of them think that the people available for them to marry are silly and shallow. Meanwhile there is an engrossing and exciting plot unfolding concerning the missing boys as Penelope and Barnaby join forces, and enlist the aid of Inspector Basil Stokes of the new Scotland Yard.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable not-quite-Regency novel. The mystery of the kidnappings adds to the thrill of the chase of this period piece, and the characters are all well-constructed, believable people. Independent women have surely been around back to the beginnings of time, in spite of the strictures that society enjoys placing on the fair sex, especially in the land that produced George Eliot not so many years after 1835. The bedroom scenes do tend to go on a little too long for those who like their romantic fiction more along the lines of Jane Austen, but this is a minor complaint about an otherwise absorbing story.

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