Her Ladyship's Companion
What a pleasure it is to read a debut romance from a promising author! Though a few plot elements struck me as…well, contrived and the second half of the book segued into some melodrama that was pretty darn melodramatic, Her Ladyship’s Companion should leave many historical romance readers hopeful that a new author might be stepping up to the auto-buy plate.
Lady Bella’s history is a tragic one. Forced into a marriage with a man she didn’t want because her brother mistakenly believed her to be dallying with a groom, she leads the life of an abandoned wife on a remote Scots estate. Distressed by how withdrawn Bella has become after her estrangement from her husband, a close friend proposes a scandalous idea: She will choose and hire a male lover to stay with Bella at her estate for a few weeks. Though Bella protests, she does not do so very strongly, and soon enough a selection is made and the choice travels from London.
That man is Gideon Rosedale, a prostitute who was himself raised in a brothel. Gideon’s attitude towards his profession is complex. Practically, he had little enough choice in the matter and at this point in his life he is firmly set on the goal of acquiring enough money to purchase a small estate and eventually raise a family. As the story opens, he is close to achieving his goal.
When Gideon arrives, Bella is initially shocked that her friend actually followed through on her proposal. Then, within the confines of the remote estate, the two then begin their own courtship dance, having dinner together and gradually getting to know the people behind their facades.
Of course, it won’t come as a surprise to romance readers that eventually Bella and Gideon do become sexually intimate and that this intimacy leads to deeper feelings. But, as in all romance novels, there are obstacles in their path to happiness.
Both characters here feel rich and real, however, revealing more about the people they are would definitely fall into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that the author does a terrific job of slowly uncovering their past experiences and showing how both evolved into the broken and wounded people that they are. (And, for the record for those who care about these things, Gideon is a real prostitute.)
The book’s first half is almost elegantly beautiful as it focuses almost solely on the developing relationship. In the second, however, outside circumstances and people are brought into play – sometimes that “necessary” conflict really gets in the way, I think – and matters begin to feel more contrived. Still, even though I rolled my eyes a few times at the melodrama, this is a good book. A very good book.
Ultimately – and excitingly – Her Ladyship’s Companion represents a strong debut for Evangeline Collins. I’m certainly going to add her name to my list of authors to watch.