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Unlike many of the RITA-winning author's nearly 90 romance novels, this winning Regency tale (second in a series) is no cheerful high society romp awash in amoral comedic characters. While the tone's definitely not dark, the mood is more mysterious in this story, which centers on the magnetic attraction between dashing and disreputable Ethan Tanner, earl of Aylesford, and wild would-be debutante Morgan Becket, whose unconventional family is unconnected by blood but united by terrible (sometimes criminal) secrets. Readers who enjoy Michaels's festive knack for exposing the foolishness and foibles of early 19th-century London's high society may be disappointed at the short shrift given the ton, as Morgan's debut season is cut short after a single delightfully scandalous ball. Substituting for the social intrigue-Michaels's forte-is international political intrigue, including battles on the high seas that are, unfortunately, reported second-hand and lacking in immediacy and color. The shooting-star sparks between the two protagonists, however, make up in power what the action sequences lack, and Michaels's enticing hints about the unrevealed origins of the Beckets of Romney Marsh should more than suffice to keep readers tantalized through this book and into the next. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.