Surprising Lord Jack
I snapped up Sally McKenzie’s lastest, Surprising Lord Jack, because although I haven’t read her books in a while, I remember her Naked series as being light and fun. Unfortunately, this book has little of the charm that marked the author’s previous efforts and an unlikable heroine that made it less than a joy to read.
When Frances Hadley overhears her aunt’s plot to drug her and have her compromised by an unpalatable neighbor, she conceives the idea to travel to London and speak to her family solicitor. If Frances can convince him to give her her dowry, she’ll be able to live on her own. Dressed as a boy for safety, she sets out, even though bad weather is threatening. When her horse suffers an injury, Frances is forced to take shelter at an inn, where she is given the last room, one normally reserved for members of local nobility.
Jack Valentine is also moved to immediate travel in spite of conditions. First of all, his mother, the Duchess of Love, is having a house party where Jack has been hounded by one unattractive young woman in particular. Secondly, Jack is dying to get back to London to continue his investigations into a series of murders by a villain called the Slasher. When the bad weather forces Jack to stop at a local inn, he discovers that his regular room has already been given to a young man also stranded by the storm. Deciding not to evict the sleeping boy, Jack sheds his clothes and climbs into bed with the unsuspecting Frances.
The next day events careen out of control for Frances. She wakes up to a man in her room, is “persuaded” to accompany Jack to London, and she finds that the brother with whom she was hoping to stay has married and moved away without even telling her. Fortunately Jack remained on the scene and, still believing Frances a boy, forces her to come home with him. The inevitable happens and Frances is quickly outted as a girl, beginning a scandal that can have only one result – marriage between two unwilling partners.
This book was just okay for me, with some reservations. I’m never a big fan of the whole girl-in-pants theme in the first place, but this particular girl left me cold. Frances doesn’t like men very much, having been abandoned by her father and brother to care for their estate with only her hateful aunt for company. She’s also an ingrate, described as unattractive, unwilling to conform, and stubborn. It was unbelievable that Jack’s family should be willing to entertain a marriage between them, and even more unbelievable that he should fall in love with her. He seemed like a truly nice guy from a loving, classy family, and I wanted a better partner for him.
The rest of the book was readable, but not inspiring in any way. On top of the romance leaving me incredulous, the whole Slasher mystery thing was transparent and came to an obvious conclusion. It felt more like filler and did nothing for the plot. Except for Jack’s family, the secondary characters are either wallpaper or villains. Frances meeting with her brother left a particularly bad taste in my mouth, and her family is very much more disfunctional than even she knew. Worst of all, I waited several days between reading the book and writing this review and found the book so forgettable that I has to practically read the entire thing over again to refresh my memory.
Perhaps this book works as the second in a trilogy, to keep up with the characters from the first book and pave the way for the third, but it didn’t work otherwise. If you’re not invested in the Duchess of Love trilogy, I’d suggest giving this one a pass.