Lady Be Bad
In Lady Be Bad, the kick-off to Megan Frampton’s newest series, Lady Eleanor Howlett is carrying the burden of resurrecting her family’s reputation after her younger sister ran off with a dance instructor (the horror!). Thus, she must marry the man chosen for her, one Lord Carson. Lord Carson, is far too busy running his estates to get to know the woman he is to marry, so he dispatches his younger brother Alexander to do the job. Alexander and Eleanor quickly discover a compatibility that not only pushes the boundaries of propriety, but decimates them completely.
In order to maintain the conceit of Eleanor’s betrothal to Lord Carson, while continuing to develop the relationship with Alexander, Ms. Frampton has to do some high-wire tricks with truth and deceit. To her credit, she executes it successfully, complete with her trademark banter and strong characterizations. I greatly enjoyed these characters and getting to know the other sisters with whom we will inevitably spend more time as the series progresses. I did have an issue with the use of deceit as a major plot point, as it’s one barrier I cannot cross, but even if, like me, you are averse to this plot device, I’d still actually recommend the book. Just know going in that you’ll be spending time with lovely people forced by circumstances to engage in cloak and dagger antics to explore their love for one another. Get past that, however, and then get to know these folks. The scenes in the bookshop are worth the price of admission alone, I promise.
So, with that out of the way, why should you read this book? First of all, it has a fantastic focus on female agency. Eleanor is determined to do right by her sisters; not only the three remaining in the house, but by the one who abandoned them. While she is constrained for sure, the idea of her making choices is a theme throughout the novel. When it comes time to make a choice between social propriety and love, the conversations Eleanor has with her sisters about the topic is lovely. In a time period where women’s agency was so very limited, it’s an excellent reminder to read something where the characters still struggle with that.
Second of all, Alexander is hot as hell and his dedication to making Eleanor see herself that way as well is, shall we say, admirable.
Third of all, Alexander’s hero’s journey is lovely. He can’t imagine himself in the prescribed role of the spare, and so has convinced himself that his activities are worthless, even when they are lovely and for the public good. Through embracing the vulnerability he feels with Eleanor, Alexander learns that his role in the family is distinct but significant and has grown into himself fully by the end of the novel.
There is much to enjoy in Lady Be Bad, which was a complete delight once I set aside the lying part. I’m very much looking forward to further installments in this world – especially considering a certain letter sent to Eleanor towards the end of the novel. Those of you who get there – did you see it coming? Anyway, thanks for this introduction to the sisters, Ms. Frampton! I cannot wait to see where your pen takes them.