My Lady's Honor
It’s a darn shame, really. Even though there’s much to like about My Lady’s Honor, most of it is overshadowed by one really, really big problem. Throughout the entire book the hero thinks the heroine is a conniving wench, practically a slut. I’d like to think we’re past this. I remember reading – and even accepting – in the 80’s and early 90’s, books in which the hero was unrelentingly mean to the heroine. But, these days, I just can’t handle it. And, frankly, I don’t think any of us should have to.
Gwennor Southford’s nasty cousin, the inheritor of her late father’s meager estate, is about to force her to marry an older man. Though not delighted at the prospect, Gwen is happy enough to go along with her cousin’s wishes as long as her new husband is willing to provide a comfortable home for her mentally handicapped brother. (The author isn’t specific about just what’s wrong with Parry, beyond reporting that it is the result of a head injury.) When our heroine discovers that her cousin plans to lock her brother in the attic forever (shades of Jane Eyre), the two flee and make their way to the home of her late stepmother’s aunt in Harrowgate. Knowing that her cousin will look for her along the well traveled roads and inns, Gwen and Parry travel with a band of Gypsies.
Several weeks later, Gilen de Mowbry, Viscount St. Abrams, accompanies his friends to an evening at the Gypsy camp – an opportunity for the bored aristocrats to gamble, have their fortunes read, and, of course, eye the wenches. Immediately enamored by the violent-eyed vixen (yes, he actually thinks that), the two share a kiss before the Gypsy lord chases Gilen away. And even though our hero is obsessed, his search for the unknown wench proves fruitless since Gwen leaves the Gypsies the very next day to make her way to the home of her Aunt Alice.
Happily settled in Harrowgate, Gwen is realistic enough to know that her best option is find an amiable man and marry him. One of her prime candidates is Jeffrey Masterson, a young man with an inclination for falling in love, who also happens to be one of Gilen’s close friends. When Gilen meets Gwen, the latest object of Jeffrey’s affections, it doesn’t take him long to recognize his Gypsy wench.
Of course, Jeffrey must be protected from the clutches of the heartless slut and Gilen’s methods range from threatening to reveal that Gwen traveled with the Gypsies to calling in her aunt’s mortgage – all of which are complicated by the fact his feelings for Gwen are impossible to deny.
Now, for the good stuff. Despite all the meanness and the face slapping, Julia Justiss does have a knack for conveying emotional intensity and longing in a way that reminded me of the wonderful books of Laura London. Julia Justiss is good at this – very, very good. And, frankly, if there were more of that and far, far fewer tempestuous encounters, this book would have merited a higher grade.
In fact, I would love to read a Julia Justiss book that was far less plot-driven and far more reliant on character. Again, I’m remembering with great fondness the Laura London books and I think Julia Justiss could fill that gap.
But, if you have a problem with a hero who just plain doesn’t seem to much like the heroine, this is a book that should best be avoided. Still, with that said, I am holding out hope for this author, and may read one of her earlier books, as they all received good grades here at AAR.