Never a Lady
After three books by this author, I’m still not sure if I like her work. Never a Lady fared better than the others and the last fifty pages, along with a beautiful ending, bumped my grade up so that this one earns a qualified recommendation.
Alexandra, Madame Larchmont, is a skilled fortune teller being paraded around London’s drawing rooms as entertainment. She enjoys herself by meeting new people and reading into their future with her cards. That is, until she spots a familiar figure from her past at a party.
Colin Oliver, Viscount Sutton, has come to London from his beloved Cornwall estate to find himself a bride. He fears he is in danger due to strange dreams and intuition. Believing he will soon die, he wants to produce an heir so as to keep the title from going to his brother, who enjoys being a country doctor and wants nothing to do with the peerage.
Alexandra flees the party to avoid meeting with the man who caught her stealing his watch four years earlier when she had been a thief. He catches up with her but acts as though he doesn’t recognize her from the past and retains her for a private reading to help with his bride hunt. Alexandra is still flustered from seeing him again, but also after overhearing a nefarious plot to murder someone at an upcoming ball. Of course, Colin is an ex-spy and so is the man hosting the unfortunate party. Once a few people are found murdered and Alexandra thinks she being followed around the East End by someone other than Colin, she is taken from her poor hovel, where she lives with her friend – and cares for unwanted children – to live in a fancy townhouse.
Once ensconced in the townhouse, the story centers on Alex and Colin’s affair. The author narrowly dodges a bullet when Colin thinks to ask Alex to be a temporary mistress because Alex is also contemplating an affair with him. Hence the awkward “you want me to be what???” scene was avoided. Things picked up and became more enjoyable from this point.
Throw in a couple of spicy love scenes and a true left-field villain and the story was entertaining. I just wouldn’t call it a fast read.
One of my problems was that the characters didn’t act or speak like what they were. Alexandra grew up basically an orphan in St. Giles. She turned to thievery at an early age to survive (before she was able to maintain the respectable position of fortune teller). She is depicted as a poverty stricken woman who works hard and always has, but she speaks like a lady and acts as one also. There was never really an explanation for her manners and demeanor.
Colin, also, was cast as some uptight aristocrat who was a slave to his title, but he never acted as one. He was determined to find a wife and only mentioned briefly that she needed to be respectable. His brother and father married for love and I never got the impression they would have had a problem if Colin picked someone other than a peer’s daughter as his bride.
There are some amusing moments even with a beginning and middle that dragged. Colin’s brother Nathan was fun, as was the banter between the brothers. I would have liked to learn a bit more about Alex’s life in the East End and the children she cared for. And Colin was rather obtuse by never even considering Alex for his wife. Granted most of his scenes consisted of lustful thoughts, but there was some depth there and he should have been able to spot that she was a possibility.
I’m normally a staunch epilogue supporter. I adore them. This was one case where I didn’t mind the lack. The ending scene, I thought, was beautiful. It wrapped up a loose end perfectly and very romantically. There was an underlying message throughout the book that these two were fated for each other. At first this was a bit overwhelming, but the end scene made it all the more worth it.
If you are already a fan of this author, or of Regency-set historicals, you may want to consider this one.