Not Quite a Lady
Harlequin Historicals has recently published a number of books quite different in setting and voice from the current run of Regency-set romances filling the rosters of most publishers. Margo Maguire’s latest historical romance fits the Harlequin bill nicely: It’s a refreshingly different, creative, and touching romance with enjoyable characters and a whimsical – but still very emotional – story.
Samuel Temple, a scientist recently released from captivity in the Sudan, is haunted by memories of his imprisonment. Once an avid explorer and researcher, he now finds himself paralyzed by fear and unable to contemplate joining any new scientific endeavors and, even more importantly, he cannot bear even a casual touch from another human being. With no scientific expeditions planned, he makes a wager with his brother and journeys to a rural English inn reputed to be haunted. While ostensibly studying the local bees, he is in fact trying to prove that the hauntings are a fraud.
Upon arriving at Lilly Tearwater’s inn in Cumbria, Sam finds himself quite taken with the proprietor. The breathtakingly beautiful and intelligent Lilly, however, has secrets – and a mysterious talent – of her own. She is fascinated by her newest guest and, since she is also deeply curious about foreign places, intent upon hearing all his stories. However, Lilly must fight her own nervousness about getting close to Sam because she does not dare let him learn all her secrets.
Still, Sam is fascinated by Lilly and, despite his fears of human contact and his suspicions that her hauntings are a fraud, he gives chase in his own somewhat conflicted fashion. Lilly, for her part, has a notion of what constitutes proper behavior for an unmarried lady, but she is not entirely the socially acceptable shrinking violet of the day. She also actively pursues Sam and tries to get to know him better, all the while keeping her own mysteries safely hidden.
The relationship between Sam and Lilly progresses slowly, and the author does a good job of maintaining tension throughout the story. While there are not many conventional love scenes in the book, the reader is privy to many of the character’s inner thoughts – thoughts that vividly bring the romantic tension between these characters to life. In addition, the characters speak to one another as friends and equals on several occasions, and their conversations grow ever more tender.
This slow growth of the relationship between Sam and Lilly is touching. The story is made even more entertaining by the enjoyable (for the most part) secondary characters, a good setting, and a touch of the supernatural. All these aspects of the story worked for me and I enjoyed sinking into Sam and Lilly’s unusual world.
The only weaknesses in the story for me developed towards the end as a suspense subplot came into play which really didn’t seem necessary. While this subplot does provide some conflict, it also breaks the magical mood that flavors the majority of the novel. For this reason, the book seemed to stumble a bit as it came to an end.
Still, Not Quite a Lady is an entertaining read, especially for anyone craving a bit of magic and a sweet story. It certainly brought a much-needed touch of fairytale whimsy to my afternoon. Margo Maguire is a new author to me and I will certainly be searching for her again.
I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.