Historical Romance fans will be entranced by the sweeping saga of The Guardian's Plan from author Barbara Dexter Moore whose passion for such genres is clearly evident in this 300 plus page first novel.
Besides the many twists and turns within its pages, perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of The Guardian's Plan is that Moore wrote about half the novel and unfortunately passed away from complications from breast cancer before being able to complete it. But now, 9 years following her 2006 death, her husband, Richard Moore, author of ‘Tribes of the Nahrain', ‘Past' and ‘Present', decided to take her half-finished manuscript and complete her dream.
Beautifully set in Regency England in 1835, Richard, the book's executive editor, has done his wife well in this reviewer's opinion.
Readers early on meet The Duke of Hersford, Derek Eden, a dashing, long-time bachelor, who is well-known among English society, and considered to be a true catch by all the ladies of the “Bon Ton.” We and Derek learn quickly that he has been appointed as the legal guardian of six American children ages 3 to 20. Not just ordinary children, but those of his fondest childhood friend, Edward Ashton-Croft. The Duke hasn't seen Ashton-Croft in 14 years because he died under quite mysterious circumstances.
The Duke encounters the first of the brood, eldest daughter, Meghan, in the dark, literally. Their meeting sets the tone for what will be a constant battle of ‘should we or shouldn't we' woven throughout the pages between she and Derek.
“She rose from her cavernous and throne-like leather cathedra, removed her house slippers and reached for a heavy wrought iron fire poker. At the library door she silently prayed it would open without creaking; stealth, the poker and a steadfast heart would be her only weapons. Meghan slowly turned the door's latch and opened it silently to the width of an eye. Through the dim light of single quivering candles placed atop stanchions in the long hallway she could just make out the shape of this invader; ‘Gracious, he's a big one… ,' she thought with a bit of nervousness gnawing at her resolve. He appeared to be dressed all in black, ‘… likely to help him meld into darkness… ,' she deduced, and was draped in a cloak that almost reached to the floor; his head was shrouded with a slouch hat sporting the widest brim she had ever seen. ‘No doubt he fears the light… ,' she concluded.
“When he crept up to the first stair landing and moved his hand to the rail Meghan's resolve morphed into action. Moving quietly but swiftly, she bounded into the hall, reached the intruder just as he was about to ascend the first step and firmly pressed the poker against his unsuspecting back. “Halt… stand where you are or I'll shoot!” she shouted firmly. She blinked once, quickly realized how big he actually was and pressed the poker with a firmer twist. “Brigand! Invader! Up your arms now and retrace your steps out of this house before I put a bullet through you!” ‘Firm… resolute… big or not, that should put some fear in him,' she thought, believing full advantage was with her… “
Of course, The Duke hasn't any idea on how to be a guardian, but thanks to his business acumen, he sets out to make a plan. It centers on marrying off the feisty Meghan – at first – so he can remain as the highly sought-after prize among the English set.
“Though Derek had never spent time around small children it was apparent where this escalating conversation was headed. The pounding in his head returned with a vengeance and seemed to increase with each shrill word uttered by these nippers; it notched up again as Derek's eyes turned to encounter others running down the hallway toward his chamber. Leading their pack was a very different Miss Meghan Ashton-Croft… “
Of course, Miss Meghan has other ideas. She has no interest in marrying some high society, stiff upper lipped type especially if it's just to appease The Duke. But she knows she must comply with “Your Grace” if she wants to return to her native Charleston, South Carolina, a place she considers her real home along with her brothers and sister. Meghan wants to be as far away from England and The Duke and as quickly as possible.
Alas, though, never in her wildest dreams did she believe that she would become the center of attention during the 1835 social season. From balls and gowns larger-than-life, Meghan must figure out how to juggle it all. As the season drones on, romantic tension develops between The Duke and his ward but neither will give in… Yet.
Toward the end of the novel, there are more mysteries, chaos, pistols drawn, injuries and shootings that take place, as well as a twist that readers won't see coming. Readers will also get a kick and quickly fall in love with such supporting characters as Meghan's little sister Katie, The Duke's mother, the Contessa, and others who play key roles on Meghan's and Derek's journey toward happiness.
If you are a first-time historical romance reader, or simply haven't picked one up in a while, you might want to brush up on English history and phrases to help you understand some of the references throughout. In the end, The Guardian's Plan delivers on its promises to the readers of this wonderful love story between two unlikely characters, as well as paying homage to its late author.