Never Less Than a Lady
Never Less Than a Lady is Mary Jo Putney’s second installment in her Lost Lords series and, while it’s better than many romances on the market, as a longtime fan of the author, I was disappointed. Without a doubt Mrs. Putney is one of the greats of the romance genre, but if you’re looking for the same intensity that characterized Shattered Rainbows or One Perfect Rose, you may well find it absent.
Upon discovering that he’s the heir to his hated uncle the Earl of Daventry, Major Alexander Randall resigns his military commission and leaves Spain to rejoin civilian life and do his duty to his family name: He must marry and produce the required heir. Battle scared and war weary, only one woman comes to mind who could claim that position – Julia Bancroft. But, as a country midwife she is entirely inappropriate for the role of future countess, still he can’t move on until he sees her once more. Thankfully, he arrives just in time.
Julia isn’t who she pretends to be and for the past twelve years she’s found peace under an assumed name as a trained midwife. That peace is shattered when men from her past come to claim her for the justice they think she deserves. As luck would have it, Major Randall rescues her quickly and, not only does he save her from the villains, he understands her motives, something she’s never experienced before. He also offers her protection through a marriage of convenience, one that she is assured she can escape if she can’t free herself from her personal demons.
Strangely enough, the majority of the intense action takes place within the first five chapters, very short ones at that, where the reader learns much of the trauma and hardships influencing both characters. The remainder of the story focuses on Julia reclaiming her life and learning to trust again, while Randall deals with his feelings of inferiority and fighting for the prize he wants most. While I found the set-up revealing and concise, sadly enough, the interactions between Randall and Julia were dull. Luckily the action picks back up in the last third of the book.
Throughout the book, I felt completely detached from the characters. They simply lack the emotional intensity of previous MJP characters and I didn’t feel the yearning between the characters nor did I yearn for them. Also, the reader is inundated with secondary characters to the point I felt like I was being beaten by Lost Lord references. The inclusion of characters from the first book as well as future heroes became overwhelming and in some instances sugary sweet, whereas the interactions with Lord Daventry and others pertaining strictly to Randall and Julia’s story were thought provoking and moved the plot along.
Finally, only in Romanceland would things tie up so neatly in the end. Too neatly, miraculously even. While I know HEA’s are essential to the genre, there is such a thing as too perfect and this one falls firmly into that category.
Mary Jo Putney will remain one of my all-time favorite writers and I’ll keep picking up those books with hopes of finding another powerful romance. But for me, sadly, Never Less Than a Lady was just an average read.