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Fair Game

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Book reviewed by Valarie Pelissero

Eleven years ago, Mr. Trevor Whitlatch, youngest son of a vicar, a young merchant learning his uncle's shipping business, rescued the beautiful courtesan La Gianetta from an angry French mob. She repaid his kindness by stealing a small chest of rubies from him to establish herself in England. When one of Trevor's friends comes to him for aid after being fleeced by La Gianetta in her ”card parlors,” Trevor decides now is the time for La Gianetta to repay her debt. La Gianetta knows that the debt she owes Trevor Whitlatch is great indeed and will cost her everything she has to repay it, but knowing Trevor's weakness for a pretty face, she barters her only daughter instead to pay off her debt.

Trevor Whitlatch has a keen mind for business which has made him rich beyond imagining and has given him everything he needs, which is why he can't understand how one look at the strikingly beautiful face of Clarissa Feeney has him canceling a large debt in exchange for a new mistress. As Trevor and Clarissa set off for one of his properties, Trevor is eagerly anticipating getting Clarissa into his bed but when she stabs him with her hat pin for taking liberties and he discovers that Clarissa is truly as innocent as she outwardly appears, he curses himself for all kinds of a fool and vows to make La Gianetta pay.

Growing up the daughter of a famous courtesan, Clarissa Feeney hoped to overcome her past and make her living on her feet as a teacher, rather than on her back. Her nobleman father removed Clarissa from La Gianetta when she was a small child and placed her at Miss Bathhurst's School for Young Ladies. Clarissa learned her lessons well and eventually became a teacher at the school, but when her mentor, Miss Bathhurst, suddenly dies, Clarissa is turned off without a character by the school's new owners. Having nowhere to go, Clarissa reluctantly returns to the mother she hasn't seen in fifteen years. La Gianetta, with an eye for business, instantly recognizes that Clarissa will be her most valuable commodity and lays out her plans for her daughter. When Clarissa refuses to follow in her mother's footsteps La Gianetta locks Clarissa in an attic room until she relents. Desperately seeking a means of escape, and Clarissa ends up in a different type of ”prison” at Trevor's country estate.

In Fair Game Diane Farr gives her readers a story of two people who have to overcome the barriers of their own pasts to find their ”happily ever after.” Trevor made his fortune in the shipping lanes and he thinks that his wealth can buy him anything he wants, even a titled bride, so he doesn't understand why his money doesn't work on Clarissa. Clarissa has spent her life trying to overcome the dual handicap of illegitimacy and her mother's infamy so has turned herself into a prim and proper lady so that others will not see her as ”merchandise” to be bought and sold, yet the one man she has fallen in love with does not see beyond that which breaks her heart.

Trevor wants Clarissa in his bed, but he won't force her, which is admirable, however, he only wanted Clarissa as his mistress. He never once considered making her his wife, even knowing how much Clarissa abhorred the thought of selling her body, which portrayed Trevor as selfish and not very hero-like. Trevor was very kind to Clarissa but for the most part I just wanted to slap him for only thinking of himself.

I admired Clarissa for sticking to her beliefs and not succumbing to Trevor's desires, although towards the end her overly melodramatic reactions to Trevor's actions started to become tiresome. When another man started courting Clarissa, even though she had fallen in love with Trevor, I thought it would have served Trevor right if he had lost Clarissa to someone who was willing to give her the respectability she so desperately craved. I was actually rooting for the other guy, which is very unusual in a romance, and is a testament to the emotions that Ms. Farr can inspire in her readers through her writing.

Despite Ms. Farr's torturing her readers until the last pages wondering when Clarissa and Trevor will get their happily ever after, Fair Game is a book that should be added to your collection of traditional regencies, even though your feelings towards the hero may, as mine did, swing like a pendulum for most of the book.

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October 1999, 217 pages
Publisher: Signet
ISBN: 0451198565

Back Cover Blurb:

Clarissa is a young woman of unearthly beauty…and unfortunate parentage. Ostracized by the family of her deceased nobleman father, the refined innocent is left to the devices of her estranged mother, an infamous harlot known as La Gianetta. Even worse, the unscrupulous…and hardly maternal…La Gianetta owes a large debt to a powerful, wealthy womanizer. And she can think of only one possession the demanding gentleman might find of satisfactory value…

Handsome Trevor Whitlatch is quite content that his lovely new acquisition is in every way her mother's daughter…despite the girl's oddly respectable persona. But a tangle with a hat pin and a most peculiar sojourn in the country are about to teach him that the apple can fall quite far from the tree. And when Clarissa discovers there's more to a man than her teachers at the Bathhurst Ladies' Academy let on, everyone's fair game…

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