The Choice
by Edith Layton, historical (1999)
Harper, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-101392-7

Edith Layton's last book The Cad I found silly and annoying. This new one, while not exactly earth-shattering keeper material, is much better in my opinion. Gentle, easy, and sometimes too slowly paced, The Choice has the heroine matched with not one but three possible suitors. Of these three, two offer the greatest competition for her attention.

Our heroine, Miss Gilliam Giles grew up in the slums. It is only via her cunning and intelligence that had her and her sister becoming wards of kind Viscount Sinclair and thus improving their lot in life. She always has a crush on dashing, debonair Earl of Drummond, while Lord Wycoff, always a dear friend, made it clear he wouldn't mind they becoming more intimate. Then one day she finds herself beating to a pulp a rake who tries to force himself on her in a garden. This is witnessed by Mr Damon Sinclair who comes to her aid in er, disposing the evidence. The tables are turned when the humiliated rake accused Damon of beating him up from trying to rescue Gillian from Damon's lecherous advances. Damon offers marriage to Gillian and Gillian reluctantly accepts her betrothal.

I'm not too fond of love triangles, squares, hexagons, or any other shapes, but this book works for me. Gillian, while suffering from an annoyingly low self-esteem, is always a clear-headed woman. She doesn't dangle herself between the three men. Damon is always attracted to her and for him it's love at first sight. Drummond, always treating her as a sister, slowly realizes her beauty and worth. He realizes too late that he has been looking for love in the wrong places all along. And as for Wycoff, he really cares for Gillian, and if Gillian doesn't want him, he will step out of the way.

The most intense competition is between Damon and Drum. Poor Gillian is bewildered. She slowly cares for Damon as she knows him better, yet here is Drum finally declaring his ardor for her. It is a dream come true, the latter, and it is terrifying. What would she do?

And I can't guess the answer myself! I have to read to the very end. I especially adore Drum. Roguish, dandy-ish, always saying the right things, it is no wonder Gil is attracted to him. Will he get his own story? Damon is steady, reliable, and noble (great, now I'm thinking of Tim again). And the author has to be commended for making all three men real, complete with their weaknesses and insecurities. No one turns out psychotic or murderous or adulterous. All three are good men in their own ways, and would make the best of friends if not for Gil between them.

Having said all this, I must say the middle of the story really d r a g s. I am treated to an almost daily account of Gil shopping, Gil meeting this guest, Gil going to that ball, Gil buying a new bonnet... zzzzz. My interest dips to an all time low by Chapter 12. It is only until the last few chapters when all three men finally confront each other that my interest perks up. And yes, the last few chapters are very good. I feel happy for the winner and utterly sorry for the other two. Reading these chapters alone - they are wonderfully poetic - is worth the price of the book.

This book isn't a keeper for me, but it's something new, something different. For that alone I'm willing to allocate a space on my bookshelf for The Choice.

Rating: 77

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