A Lord Apart
I slogged through Jane Ashford’s A Lord Apart by promising myself I could do whatever I wanted when the book was over. Then I remembered it had to be reviewed, so I’m holding off on eating lunch until that’s done. This wasn’t even a bad book, just a stupefyingly dull one.
Daniel Frith, Viscount Whitfield, has just lost his parents in an accident, though they were always too busy haring off on adventures abroad to pay attention to him. He retires to his country estate, only to find that Miss Penelope Pendleton has taken up residence in a cottage on his land. Turns out she inherited that from his parents, so Daniel is curious. Firstly, why they would hand over a cottage to someone he didn’t even know, and secondly, why a lady would move into a cottage accompanied by only one maid.
The answers can be summed up in two sentences. Firstly, Daniel’s and Penelope’s mothers were very close friends and his mother felt that one way to address the inequality in the treatment of women was to give them property. Secondly, Penelope’s late brother was a radical convicted of treason, which meant she was questioned extensively by the Foreign Office and shunned by society, even though she’s innocent and only wants to be left alone.
To discover their family connection, Daniel and Penelope go through an entire roomful of letters and estate records with meticulous, painstaking care. As they work together, they slowly grow to trust each other, so she tells him about her brother’s activism and how it affected her. They discuss these matters at length and share a kiss. Then Daniel talks to his friend Lord Macklin – and afterwards, two Foreign Office agents show up to act vaguely threatening and to bring out Daniel’s protective side. Then he decides that Penelope would be safest if she marries him, so she does, and he makes a bargain whereby the ton will accept her once again.
So it all wraps up neatly for everyone (except still-lunchless me). Ultimately, this book was a detailed chronicle of the daily lives of two people who are nice, responsible, conventional, and considerate of each other and of their servants. Sterling qualities, but I longed for something witty or compelling or unpredictable.
The closest the book comes to originality is in Daniel’s physical appearance, since he’s not devastatingly handsome and even has a snub nose. I can’t recall much else about him. I’m actually not even sure if the title refers to him or to Lord Macklin. Though Daniel doesn’t belong to a secret club of aristocrats or have best friends who keep showing up, so perhaps that sets him apart from all the other heroes in Romancelandia?
As for Penelope, she adopts two dogs, learns to bake Shrewsbury cakes, and arranges for indoor plumbing to be installed in Daniel’s house. She’s efficient (Daniel thinks this at least four or five times), smart, and pretty. I wished her well. I just didn’t want to read about her, because she didn’t say or do anything interesting.
A Lord Apart might work for die-hard fans of Jane Ashford, or for readers who want a mildly pleasant, undemanding and low-key milk pudding of a romance. But personally, I’ll look for something with more zest – and on that note, I finally get to eat lunch. Now there’s my happy ending!
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I'm Marian, originally from Sri Lanka but grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in Georgia and Texas, ended up in Toronto. When I'm not at my job as a medical laboratory technologist, I read, write, do calligraphy, and grow vegetables in the back yard.