Desert Isle Keeper
How to Chaperon a Lady
Virginia Heath has done it again.
I could end my review of the delightful How Not to Chaperon a Lady there, but I won’t. Just know that it absolutely suffices for me to say that much and let you read the whole book by yourself. Go read it, you’ll be doing yourself quite the favor, though I have a couple of quibbles that keep this one from reaching a full-out A.
But since you likely want to know more, let me open with the plot. Opera songstress Charity Brookes is fresh from an engagement at Covent Garden, and she is headed northward on a tour. Time has molded Charity into a diva ne plus ultra – but if she wants to bring her best friend, Dorothy – Dotty – Philpot with her, she’ll have to endure the presence of Dotty’s older brother as Dotty’s chaperon.
That would be curmudgeonly Griff Philpot. Naturally, Griff has known Charity since they were children and both were part of a tight circle of friends – close, until they hit puberty and started hating each other. Though they are the last two single members of their friendship group, they have never gotten along and spend much of their time bickering. He thinks she’s too flighty and spoiled, and she thinks he’s autocratic and fusty. But the inventor and businessman is respectable and as good an escort as any for the angelic-seeming Charity and his actually-naïve little sister. All Griff has to do is endure two weeks in the company of blonde, independent, vivacious Charity and keep both girls out of trouble.
That soon proves to be a tall order as their road trip gathers pace and Charity battles romantic disappointment as she tries to marry her way into the aristocracy while Griff battles sexual frustration and jealousy as Charity seems to hook a duke. Dotty, meanwhile, falls into romantic flirtation with a man who may or may not be suitable for her. When an impulsive night between Charity and Griff results in long-ranging consequences, will they be able to realize that they truly love one another?
Heath hews toward the traditional in How not to Chaperon a Lady, and it works like gangbusters. The story leans heavily on traditional tropes but manages to conjure original characters to life thanks to Heath’s skill and research.
I liked Charity in spite of herself – and Griff in spite of himself – because they are complex and realistically flawed people. Charity can be childish and diva-like, but her desire to climb the social ladder is understandable (being an actress was not an acceptable profession to the ton and Heath knows and is smart about how she writes this, including having gossip columnists follow Charity’s adventures), and I loved her wit and her confidence. Griff can be jealous and reserved, and his over the top growling can be annoying, but he knows how to be romantic and gives a great grovel.
I also enjoyed Dotty a lot – she’s credibly naïve without being credulous – and Charity’s two sisters (and the series’ previous heroines) Faith and Hope – pop up, as do her protective older brothers and her impressive M-O-T-H-E-R.
But I had some issues with the pacing of the book, which felt like two different plotlines sewn together at the midpoint, one half road trip, the other half (spoilers!) a marriage of convenience storyline. Harlequin’s relatively slim page count defeats the author just a bit here. I was also a little disappointed about Charity’s end, and wanted to see her buck tradition a bit more, but she was happy with the end result.
My quibbles remain minor. How not to Chaperon a Lady is romantic and funny and touching. It’s another memorable winner for Virginia Heath.