A Lady for Lord Randall
This is one of a trilogy of books written by three different authors to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Collectively, they are the Brides of Waterloo series, and the other two books, A Mistress for Major Bartlett and A Rose for Major Flint are by Annie Burrowes and Louise Allen.
The heroes are all officers belonging to a regiment known as “Randall’s Rogues” – a unit comprised of the “raff and scaff the military gathered into one troop”, but who, under the command of Colonel Lord Randall have become a force to be reckoned with.
Justin Latymor, Earl Randall is a career soldier, a darkly handsome but somewhat forbidding, taciturn man who has little time for or patience with pleasantries and the social graces. Although he’s the head of his family of three sisters and three brothers, he remains in the army, content to let his mother run his estates and take responsibility for his younger siblings.
In order to spend some time with his sister Harriett while on a short leave, the earl attends a party hosted by some of her closest friends, a cheerful, free-thinking couple who like to surround themselves with “interesting people” – scholars, radical intellectuals and artists. Randall, a man who is not an especially social animal at the best of times, finds the whole thing confusing and uncomfortable. He is further disconcerted when a young woman – Mary Endacott – introduces herself and strikes up a conversation with him. It is not the done thing for ladies and gentlemen to converse before they have been formally introduced, but he finds himself grateful for her company and enjoying her conversation, even going so far as to seek her out later in the evening.
When the party is over, he is sorry to say goodbye to Mary, but his sister has already determined that this will not be their last meeting. Over the next few days, Justin and Mary enjoy the time they spend in each other’s company, but both know that nothing can come of it. For one thing, Randall’s life is in the army, and for another, he’s an earl and will be expected to marry a young woman of quality, not a schoolmistress. And the radical principles instilled in Mary by her late parents are not easily overcome; she believes in a meritocracy and wants to live an independent life.
When Harriett discovers that Mary is to return to the school she runs in Brussels at the same time as her brother is making the same journey, she immediately suggests that they travel together. By now, Justin and Mary are very attracted to each other and are forming a bond that surpasses more than mere friendship. Both have decided, individually, that they are getting in too deep and that a break sooner rather than later is best – but it would be ungentlemanly for Randall to refuse to accompany Mary, and churlish for her to turn down his escort.
All the time, Mary and Randall are drawing closer, and despite their best intentions to part once they reach their destination, they can’t keep away from each other. Rumour has it that Napoleon will soon be marching on Brussels, so Randall’s military duties keep him well occupied, but he spends every spare moment he can with Mary, and she, knowing these will be their final days together, decides to enjoy them, rather than to worry about what the future will bring.
Until around the 60% mark on my Kindle, I was reading a perfect romance. The protagonists are attractive and well-matched, and the intensity of the emotion between them leaps off the page. Ms Mallory imbues almost every line with the most incredible, deeply felt longing, and there are a couple of real lump-in-the-throat moments along the way.
But suddenly, she throws in a completely contrived and, to my mind, unnecessary roadblock to the romance (the prospect of encroaching war isn’t enough of a downer?!), which leads Justin to act like a complete arsehole, saying some truly horrible things to Mary on what could be the last time he sees her. Even though he soon realises his error, by then he’s in the thick of the fighting and may never have the chance to set things right. And if by chance he should return to her, Mary isn’t sure she can forgive him for his lack of trust.
In spite of the heavy-handedness of the aforementioned road-block, I enjoyed A Lady for Lord Randall very much. The author has clearly done her research, as the historical and military detail is excellent, and she has created two very attractive and well-rounded characters in Randall and Mary. I enjoyed watching him loosen up a little under Mary’s influence – he’ll never be the life and soul of the party, but he’s more relaxed and inclined to humour around her while remaining, in essence, the same serious-minded, dedicated man. Had it not been for that one issue I’ve noted – which took me completely out of the story – I’d be awarding A Lady for Lord Randall DIK status. I’m still going to give it a B, because the romance at its heart is so beautifully written. It’s a lovely, emotionally satisfying read and one I can still recommend, despite that one flaw.