Gabriella: Brenda Hiatt

He lost a wager . . . but won a treasure.

Due to a lost wager, the Duke of Ravenham is obliged to bring a pretty little nobody from the country into fashion among the high-sticklers of London Society. Ravenham would never refuse a debt of honor, no matter how unorthodox, so he overlooks Miss Gordon’s vulgar relations to do what is necessary, escorting the unsophisticated chit to balls, etc. But what he expects to be an irksome duty turns out to be something quite different as he falls under the spell of his protege’s innocent charm. When he lost that wager, he definitely never counted on losing his heart as well!

First impressions can be deceiving.

Miss Gabriella Gordon only came to London at her mother’s and sister’s insistence, for she’d much rather assist in running her father’s veterinary practice than attempt to fit into fashionable society. No sooner has she arrived in London than the exalted (and exceedingly handsome) Duke of Ravenham comes to call. The reason is less than flattering, however: due to a lost wager, the Duke is forced to bring Gabriella into fashion, a “favor” she would certainly refuse if her family would let her. But the more time she spends in the dashing Duke’s company, the more conflicted she feels— particularly when she discovers they have more in common than she ever dared dream.

One of the great things, I am discovering, about ebooks, are reissued traditional Regencies.  Gabriella, the first by Brenda Hiatt, was originally published by Harlequin in 1992 with a traditional Harlequin cover:

While I am not sure the new cover is much of an improvement, the affordable $2.99 price was low enough for me to take a risk on an unknown (to me) author.

In this classic Pygmalion/Pride and Prejudice plot, we have a country gel who, against her better judgment, is forced to spend a Season in Town with her well matched sister.  Although Gabriella would much rather help her recently deceased father’s fledgling veterinary practice, her mother’s tidy sale to neighboring practicioner leaves her little choice.

Gabriella is everything a Reg Rom loyalist could want in a heroine, frank, kind hearted and with plain looks made attractive by her charisma.  Luckily for her, a wager has also granted her the support of the Duke of Ravenham to launch her in Society.  The Duke is by turns, stoic and arrogant, and yet amused and kind.  He is deliciously handsome and the perfect escort who “cares more about (Gabriella’s) reputation” than she does.

What follows is a light and airy Reg Rom with a not over the top, but still detestable, villian and an unsympathetic, toad-eating sister.  Nice supporting cast of characters make this a breezy, easy read perfect for the hot days of summer when are brains need a cooling off.  Most enjoyable when transporting us from Regency hot spot to hot spot, Hiatt nails the essence of the Regency without getting too bogged down in the details.

I definitely will look further into Hiatt’s array of re-released titles, as this first traditional Regency hit most of the marks for an enjoyable read.

With only one kissing scene at the end, and minor mentions of mistresses, this is a perfect companion for vanilla and clean hist-ro lovers.

 (3.95 out of 5  No depth, just straightforward cotton candy Reg Rom.  Enjoyable, quick read)

 (Minor mentions of mistresses may put the missish to blush, other than that squeaky clean)

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