Behind a Lady's Smile
I feel like maybe I missed something. After reading this book and working on the review, I looked around a bit, wondering what other people thought. Most of them loved it. And although I didn’t hate it, I certainly wouldn’t say it is my new favorite. While I enjoyed the author’s writing and the characters were interesting, Behind a Lady’s Smile simply didn’t capture me the way I was hoping for.
Someone is spying on Mitch Campbell. As a USGS photographer, he is used to being on his own in the wilderness, and it’s far too obvious that there is another person out there. Thinking to get the jump on them, Mitch climbs up to get a good shot, and manages to scare a young woman, Genny Hayes, into falling off a cliff thereby breaking her leg. Guilt has him taking her back to her father’s cabin and staying when he finds out her father died several months before. But it’s Genny’s charm that has him agreeing to take her out of the wilds into town, so she can try and make her way to England and her mother’s family.
Well, Genny’s charm and Mitch’s greed. After all, it turns out Genny’s maternal grandfather? A duke. And Mitch could really use the money.
So off they go (after Genny’s leg has healed enough to allow her to travel), across the continental United States and the Atlantic Ocean, to meet Genny’s long lost family. And, of course, they fall for each other along the way. Genny is innocent and sweet and trusting and the most kind-hearted manipulative woman I’ve ever read about! She’s surprisingly educated for someone who has spent the better part of her life in a cabin in the woods, and uses that education and her natural charm to move the people around her, like a benevolent dictator with a chessboard. Mitch knows he is being manipulated, but can’t help being charmed by her innocence and genuine goodness. And, you know, the potential of money coming from her grandparents. That’s pretty charming, too.
While my descriptions of the characters may not be particularly flattering, it’s their faults that make them interesting. There’s a great balance in both characters, and it translates into an interesting relationship between them. Mitch falls in love with Genny’s bravery and innate goodness. Genny falls for Mitch’s strength and smarts. They work.
There’s a sweet historical road trip under the romance and family drama, and I enjoyed it. The writing is simple, but well done, and the characters are really interesting and feel fresh. I would definitely read more by this author, but the problem here is that it all seems a bit too formulaic. Basically, the entire story goes: danger, manipulate, travel, danger, manipulate, travel, repeat. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting, because it is; it’s just that the overall repetition left me without that eagerness to finish the story right now. And that’s something I always hope for.
Additionally, the romance between Mitch and Genny, while sweet, is far less interesting than the historical aspects of the story. The scenery, the secondary characters, Mitch’s mother especially, and Genny’s grandparents and their history, are all far more captivating. I wanted to know the story of Genny’s parents, especially her mother, who walked away from money and comfort and society and happily moved to Chicago to be with the man she loved. That sounds like a lovely story.
Behind a Lady’s Smile starts off slowly, but once Mitch and Genny start moving, so did the story. We have our Pretty Woman moment where Genny goes shopping for dresses for their trip, and a bit of My Fair Lady or Pygmalion when she’s learning manners and bearing later on, in preparation for meeting her grandparents. The first twenty percent or so was a bit of a drag, but it picks up pretty quickly, and I was definitely enjoying it by the end.