Desert Isle Keeper
Nearly a Lady
With numerous variations on the Pygmalion storyline in existence, it would be easy to pass over this little gem of a book while thinking, “Been there, done that.” We’ve all read stories where a lady (or gentleman) who is rough around the edges is transformed into a refined specimen worthy of polite society. While Nearly a Lady follows this formula, the characterization and witty repartee between the main characters elevate the novel beyond most that attempt this formula.
Many years ago the late Marquess of Engsly made a deathbed promise to care for young Winnefred “Freddie” Blythe. Upon learning that Freddie was in fact a young lady and not the boy he expected, the Marquess sent her to live at a country estate in Scotland where she languished, all but forgotten. Now that the old Marquess is deceased, his heir has discovered that his stepmother has been siphoning funds from the estate for years and not properly providing for Freddie’s care. Determined to put things to rights, the Marquess sends his younger brother Gideon Haverston to Freddie’s home.
Upon his arrival however, Gideon is mistaken for an intruder and knocked cold by Freddie and her companion Lilly. Once his true identity is discovered they are still wary of him and his motives for visiting them. As Gideon learns of the extent of his stepmother’s embezzlement, he determines that he shall make it up to Freddie and Lilly and offers the ladies whatever they may desire. Lilly wants Freddie to have a London season. Gideon agrees and they set about readying Freddie for her London debut. As Freddie works through her lessons in deportment, she has a chance to spend time with Gideon and comes to trust him and have an affection for him. Gideon is drawn to Freddie; however, due to his experiences in the war he is unwilling to shoulder the responsibility of another human life.
Gideon is my favorite kind of tortured hero. Haunted by the demons of war, he hides the darkness behind a cheerful façade. He has some very real issues regarding bearing the responsibility of other people that he must overcome in order to let himself love Freddie wholly. Watching him as he reconciled those was an absolute highlight of the book for me.
Freddie proves herself to be a good match for Gideon as she transforms from a rough-and-tumble country girl to a lady suited to any London drawing room. While she does not know the details of Gideon’s war experiences, she senses his deeply buried pain and offers him her friendship. I found their dialogue to be particularly well done, from their verbal sparring to the moments of more honest communication. I adored watching their relationship develop and the fact that they were able to communicate well gave me great hope for their future.
Nearly a Lady has just the right combination of humor and earnestness to keep this reader captivated. With likable characters who are more than they seem at first blush and dialogue that sparkles, I plan to revisit this story for years to come.