Desires of a Perfect Lady
In some ways, I feel like Desires of a Perfect Lady was severely misrepresented by the title and the blurb on the back of the book. Both made the story sound like a witty, fun reconciliation/seduction of sorts, which couldn’t possibly be further than the truth. The characters are dull, the plot is uneven, and has nothing to do with reconciliation between a star-crossed couple, seductive or otherwise.
Ten years ago, Olivia Newbury and Sterling Harrington were in love and engaged to be married. Out of the blue, Olivia’s father told Sterling that she had decided that a certain Lord Rathbourne was a better prospect for her and accepted his hand. A rejected Sterling decided then and there to cut off all contact with her.
Now, years later, Olivia is the newly widowed Lady Rathbourne. Her husband was murdered, and now her father is afraid that her life may be in danger. He turns to Sterling, now Earl of Wyldewood, and admits to him that he had forced Olivia to marry Rathbourne to save his own reputation. When Olivia finds out about Sterling’s enlisted help, she is less than pleased – she has no intention of allowing the man who abandoned her back into her life. However, she has no real choice; her controlling husband has withheld most of her money from her until she embarks on a wild goose chase/treasure hunt to complete his beloved collection of paintings and artifacts. She must allow Sterling to financially assist her until she can be independent, and meanwhile, she has a list of things she wants to accomplish as a newly free woman; bedding Sterling just happens to be at the top of her list.
When I realized that this story was going to be one of those travel-around-the-world adventures, I was wary that the limited page count would hinder the success of the story. As it is, the adventure is more of a sightseeing bus tour that covers 14 countries in 5 days; it hops around the world from Egypt to Venice to London, never giving us a chance to really feel we’re there, but allowing us to proudly say that we went to those places. There’s also a bizarre twist at the end, serving only to rush the plot even further. This, of course, did nothing to help develop the characters, all of whom remained rather flat.
Olivia and Sterling seemed like bare bones characters, just given enough personality to say their lines. Olivia’s idea of seducing Sterling was to repeatedly attempt to wrangle him into her room (to no avail). Sterling’s interpretation of becoming less stuffy and more lover-ish was to constantly grin his head off, and laugh loudly. I never really warmed to Sterling, because I found it unforgivable that he wouldn’t bother confronting Olivia after she suddenly breaks off their engagement for no reason (through her father, no less). Not only does he not bother to find out the truth from her, but he doesn’t care to read the letters she sends over a period of ten years. He just lays down dead and gives up, and he never really redeems himself later. I did like Olivia marginally better than Sterling, because when she finds out he never read her letters, she lambastes him with enough legitimate, logical anger that I cheered a little.
I was a little disturbed by how easily Olivia gains those treasured items which eluded her husband for so long, and with very little charm – she’s just plain ol’ lucky that she gets them. I was also surprised by the fact that Olivia and Sterling conveniently forget that her home had been broken into and she had been assaulted.
Desires of a Proper Lady is incredibly, overwhelmingly average. With a frustrating beginning, a rushed middle, and a fast-forwarded end, there was little time for making-up or romance. I never felt like the characters became reacquainted or were ever truly in love.