The second book in Jade Lee’s Lords of the Masquerade series, Lord Satyr stars a neuroatypical botany-loving on-the-shelf spinster and an aristocrat trying to make an independent business fortune. While some aspects of the story are silly, the core relationship in this book is full of warm-fuzzy acceptance and kindness. That’s always worth a read.
Jackson, Lord Sayres, is trying to get out from under the control of the woman for whom he has managed many successful and lucrative projects – who happens to be the aunt of the book’s heroine, Gwen. Unfortunately, Isabella has crossed the line. Not only did she plant a spy as Jackson’s valet, but she’s threatening Jackson’s sisters with social ruin. She issues an ultimatum: come back to work for her, or find all doors of commerce closed to him. I was intrigued by a spidery, ‘fingers in every pie’ female villain character (usually it’s a male). Soon enough, he finds no men of finance will even talk with him. This seems unlikely, but I’ve suspended disbelief on premises that have been more far-fetched.
Then Jackson meets Gwen, and they formulate a plan to thwart Isabelle by selling daffodils. Yup, Jackson owns land in Lincolnshire which is covered in daffodils, and he wants to make them the next Dutch tulip craze. This felt implausible (not just the scheme, but the odds of it paying off), and the unlikelihood by his utter conviction that Gwen is the only person who can model and sell the daffodils. She’s a twenty-eight year old spinster, and has never been a social success. You could consider it adorable that he thinks she’s so marvelous that he can’t imagine anybody else not agreeing with that belief, but you could also be worried that he’s literally betting the farm on it.
If only there had been a better business scheme bringing these two together, because Jackson and Gwen are actually extremely sweet. While the reason for bringing the daffodils to London is silly, their teamwork is appealing and their skills are complementary. Gwen knows what characteristics a shipping crate must have to keep flowers or bulbs safe; Jackson knows how to edit that design to take into account considerations of manufacturing, carrying, and stacking. They work together to create a pin vase which would hold water and a flower through a dance set, Gwen bringing the garment knowledge and Jackson finding a craftsman. I enjoy couples who are greater than the sum of their parts, and this certainly applies here.
Although the term would have never been applied at the time, Gwen is neuroatypical. She has sensory issues, only being able to wear certain fabrics and becoming overloaded by noise or crowds. She doesn’t instinctively process social conventions, for instance not understanding how people use winks. Jackson wonders, Who needed an explanation of a wink? She did, apparently, and so he answered as honestly as he could. ‘I suppose it means that I like you.’ This captures nicely the dynamic: Gwen is unusual, but Jackson is supportive. When they go to visit Jackson’s family, the author balances the power, because it’s now Jackson who needs Gwen’s support. Jackson’s family is nicely messy – not villainous, but not crammed with sequel-bait perfection, either.
I didn’t like it when Gwen goes on about her “vast intelligence”, and I was annoyed when she is shocked that Jackson knows some Greek references (any gentleman in the 1800s would have been expected to have a knowledge of rudimentary classics). The ending and the resolution to the daffodil plot is, well, a bit daffy. But on the whole, Lord Satyr is an endearing historical romance about two people who seemed to really like each other, and I support that.