Desert Isle Keeper
To Lure a Proper Lady
Ashlyn Macnamara has been an auto-buy author for me ever since her debut a few years ago. I had my ups and downs with her last series but fortunately she’s returned to form with her latest release To Lure a Proper Lady, bringing to life a hero who makes quite the impression. Full of humor, intelligence and heart this book was a winner for me.
The Duke of Sherrington has always been a bit of a hypochondriac but this time his illness seems all too real to his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Wilde. Seeing her father wasting away in his sick room is too much for her to bear, especially when his discussions with his three daughters sound like a man planning for his death. She is alarmed when he informs them of his intent to hold a house party at their home Sherrington Manor with a guest list that includes many eligible peers and gentlemen of the area. Her father is matchmaking in the most blatant way imaginable and it’s got all three Wilde sisters concerned. Lizzie’s suspicions fester about her father’s acute symptoms and on her own she questions his staff and doctor but can discover nothing. Fearing that she’s missing something critical about her father’s condition Lizzie takes the drastic step to travel to London and get the advice of an expert.
Dysart, a Bow Street runner of many years, is intrigued by the arrival of a duke’s carriage in his part of town along with its beautiful occupant. With curiosity being one of his strengths, Dysart assumes the role of a lower class rough to prick at her haughty attitude and get to the crux of why she’d travel to Bow Street on her own. His efforts are rewarded when Lady Elizabeth reveals her hand by asking a rather simple question about poisoning. The lady has a case, even if she protests the need for an investigator, and Dysart is the best at what he does. Dropping the affectation of a street thug he lets Lady Elizabeth know that he will need access to the duke and their home in order to search for clues, with the upcoming house party being the perfect cover.
Having Dysart in her home makes Lizzie uneasy, mostly because of how the attractive man invades her thoughts no matter how much he irritates her. The party itself becomes difficult when she discovers that merchants in the area refuse to give credit for the supplies needed to host so many people. There is more afoot than Lizzie’s original fears for her father, but every angle she and Dysart try to consider leads to nothing. Dysart knows that the break in the case is right in front of him; however being so close to Lizzie and fighting off his unwanted affection for her keeps him distracted. He also struggles to keep his composure when a man from his past arrives as another guest to the party. With so much on the line it becomes necessary for Lizzie and Dysart to share more and trust in each other to solve the mystery before it’s too late for the duke.
From the moment of his introduction, leaning against a wall on Bow Street and throwing shade at the genteel members of London society, Dysart absolutely makes this book. He is one of the more layered characters that I’ve read in quite a while and trying to solve the puzzle of the man right along with Lizzie adds to the enjoyment of the storyline. When he needles Lizzie about her manners, her speech and even the way she talks about her father, there is humor but also an underlying meaning that keeps a reader interested. For all of Dysart’s confidence at solving the case and keeping his emotions separate we see him making an effort to maintain both when the clues just don’t fit or Lizzie makes him feel more than he has in years. I respected Dysart for the choices he made in the past and couldn’t fault him when he keeps pushing Lizzie away to protect himself. Dysart is a self-made man and it’s incredibly difficult for him to see the walls coming down, becoming vulnerable in more ways than one.
Elizabeth matches Dysart in both wit and intellect at every story beat, creating a sense of partnership before their romantic relationship is completely formed. They play off one another quite like some of the man/woman investigative teams on television (think David/Maddie from Moonlighting or Castle/Beckett from Castle). There is a strong sexual chemistry between them but it works to their advantage as they are very aware of the other person’s moods or where their thoughts are leading. Elizabeth’s change within the story is a quiet transition from a woman set on a path of duty and responsibility into one willing to take risks and explore what is possible. I love that she is practical but never closes her heart to the fanciful side of falling in love.
To Lure a Proper Lady brings the two sides of London society together with its working class hero and a privileged heroine, yet it makes a point of showing just how thin a line that separation can be. The honor and love that Lizzie and Dysart show their friends, family and each other is more important than any label or name they have because of a quirk in birth. I enjoyed how their romance unfolds and the risks they each take to come together. With two other Wilde sisters waiting in the wings for their stories I’ll be eagerly anticipating what comes next.