Desert Isle Keeper
My Fair Gentleman
When it comes to authors Missing In Action, I really miss Jan Freed. She wrote some of the best Harlequin Superromance titles ever including this Pygmalion inspired little gem – My Fair Gentleman. It’s one of my all-time favorite comfort reads and one of the books I simply must have on the desert island.
If there was a ton in America, Catherine Hamilton would be in it. Her father is one of the Connecticut Hamiltons (as he would be the first to tell you). Dr Hamilton is a distinguished professor, best selling author and a man of such hauteur, he’d probably look down on Queen Elizabeth. Catherine isn’t beautiful (she’s inherited the Hamilton nose), but she is accomplished (PhD in psychology) and has an air of elegance about her. Catherine is engaged to Carl Wilson who is from an old, rich Houston family, and for both of them it’s a marriage of convenience. Carl needs a woman from a good family to have the Wilson heir, and Catherine’s father is thrilled because she’s marrying someone with a distinguished ancestry. There’s not a lot of love between Carl and Catherine, but they get along well enough, and in the circles in which they move, love is not a prerequisite for marriage. The one big disagreement between them is what to do after the wedding. Catherine very much wants to open her own counseling practice, but Carl wants her to be a society wife like his mother.
Carl and Catherine make a bet. If she can take a man from a blue collar background, polish his manners and pass him off as a gentleman to her hyper-critical father, he will finance her counseling practice. If she fails, she will become another Lady Who Lunches. Carl takes Catherine to a tavern called The Pig’s Gut and chooses the candidate – Joe Tucker, who is mooning the man who just beat him in a game of pool.
Ex-baseball catcher Joe once had a promising career, but injuries forced him to retire early. Joe is a widower with a teenage daughter named Allie who is wise beyond her years and right now, he is desperate for money. When Catherine offers him a large sum and a free apartment for a month, he swallows his pride and agrees to learn the ways of the upper crust and attempt to pass himself off as Sebastian Doherty, of the Philadelphia Dohertys.
I’ve read other romances based on Pygmalion and I think this is one of the best. My Fair Gentleman is a character based romance with a touch of humor, and a number of very poignant moments. What makes it so special are the characters of Joe and Catherine. They begin as Neanderthal Man meets Sociey Lady, but as the book progresses, Joe and Catherine reveal more and more of their true selves to each other and to the reader. Joe is outwardly a rough hewn jock whose conversation consists of grunts and baseball stats. However, we gradually find out that he is hiding a keen intelligence and charming personality under his sweaty exterior. Joe grew up in a family where education was not prized, and he learned to hide his intelligence and love of learning. Joe became a baseball player to please his father, and now that he is unable to play, he is lost since he never learned to value some of his other qualities. But as the story unfolds, Joe comes to realize that his horizons are much wider than just those of a baseball diamond.
Catherine, despite all her outward gloss is a lonely and insecure woman. Her father, a consummate snob, married Catherine’s lower class mother in a fit of passion, then arranged a divorce and took Catherine away from her. Dr. Hamilton raised Catherine to be his research assistant, and despite all her real accomplishments, he’s belittled her, sniped at her “plebian blood” and let her know that she isn’t quite perfect enough to be a true Hamilton. Later in the book, Catherine meets her mother, who turns out to be a pretty, intelligent, classy and loving woman who gets her own, very satisfying, HEA.
Catherine and Joe bring out the best in each other. In his eyes, she is beautiful and worthy of love, and in her eyes he is capable and smart. They are an utterly adorable couple, all the secondary characters add charm and life to the story and two cute cats are the icing on the cake. Even Carl, Catherine’s fiance turns out to be a pretty decent guy and I would like to see him get an HEA too. I love My Fair Gentleman and have re-read it many times when I need a feel good story. I fell in love with the book and the characters all over again at the last re-read and I just had to write this review. Give this book, or any other of Jan Freed’s titles a try and you will see how good a series romance can be.