Monday, August 3, 2009

Miss Prestwick’s Crusade - Anne Barbour

Miss Helen Prestwick has completed her arduous journey from Portugal to England determined to ensure the future of her nephew, the ninth Earl of Camberwell. Unfortunately, she has no evidence that the child is the son of Christopher Beresford--who died in battle--and knows her claim will enrage Christopher's cousin Edward, who currently wields the title.

Edward Beresford never wanted the Earldom to be bestowed upon him, nor the familial and financial responsibilities that came with the title after his cousin's death. But he's not going to surrender the title without verifying the legitimacy of Helen's claim. Although Christopher's mother and sisters are pleased as punch at the possibility of a new heir, Edward finds himself enchanted with the child's lovely guardian who's mission to usurp his title has also ensnared his heart.

I have generally enjoyed Anne Barbour’s books, but I am afraid this was not one of her best efforts.

Miss Helen Prestwick, daughter of an art expert, leaves Portugal to return to England with her dead sister’s son William, the 12th Earl of Camberwell. The problem is, that William’s paternal relations do not know that Christopher - the 11th Earl – got married in Portugal, let alone that he had a son before he died, and the title has passed to Christopher’s cousin Edward Beresford. Helen aims to present William’s claim, so in essence oust the current ‘fake’ Earl. It is natural to think that the current Earl will not be happy and will do anything possible to hold on to his title. Especially since Helen has not been able to locate her sister’s marriage certificate which would prove her claim on behalf of William.

The hero, Edward Beresford, is a kind and fair guy though, and does not particularly relish being an earl. So he does not see Helen as his enemy, a fact that it takes Helen some time to realise. Also Edward is almost immediately smitten by Helen, a fact that it takes a bit longer for Helen to realise. But soon enough, these two are on good terms, and have a common goal to find evidence that William is Christopher’s legitimate son, and hence the Earl of Camberwell.

The obstacles thrown to their budding romance is the fact that Helen left Portugal under a cloud, that concerned a counterfeit painting. Helen is of course innocent, but would Edward believe her if she confessed ? Probably not (she thinks) so she keeps quiet. As usually happens in novels though, the scandal surrounding Helen is revealed, and Edward is angry at her and feels betrayed because she had not told him.

Overall Helen and Edward are likeable, and quite suited to each other. Edward is actually a very nice example of a beta hero. And I quite like the fact that he is not set against marriage or women in general, neither has he suffered an disappointment in the past and is bitter. On the contrary, he very early on thinks that he would very much like to marry Helen, which was a refreshing change as far as heroes’ attitudes go. Overall, Helen and Edward’s romance, while enjoyable and sweet at times, is not that engaging or passionate. It proceeds at a steady pace, and suffers minor setbacks every now and then, in the form of the villainous uncle’s interventions, or Helen’s guilt that she has not told Edward about the issue of the counterfeit painting.

All in all a useful book to help pass the time pleasantly if you have nothing more appealing to read. But if you like to try Anne Barbour, I recommend you read "A Pressing Engagement" instead.

Grade 3/5




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