The Bare Truth
Poor Juliette Garrison. She has been saddled with one of the worst heroes I’ve had the displeasure of reading. Thomas Jameson flat out ruined this book. The Bare Truth would have been a quite a nice read had the romance been left out.
Juliette has been poor all her life. With her mother dying, she needs a steadier type of employment that will pay better than the workhouse. She forges some references and applies as lady’s maid to the aristocratic Whitehall family. Miss Sarah Whitehall takes a shine to Juliette and convinces her mother to hire her. Juliette doesn’t hide her true origins from Sarah and the pair get along famously. Juliette might not like the strict rules of living life in service, but she can’t fault the regular meals and clean living environment. She makes some quality friends among the staff and tries not to muddle up her duties along the way.
Two things jump in the way of Juliette’s somewhat peaceful life: Her true heritage is unmasked and a handsome American starts flirting with her. The former is the driving issue in the story. The woman Juliette knew all her life as her mother confesses that Juliette’s real mother was a dear friend of hers who died when Juliette was six months old. Juliette’s birth mother was a servant in another nobleman’s house who was seduced – and impregnated – by the lord’s son. He made her mother promises, but ended up being bullied into marriage with a “proper” woman. He has since passed on and the only “real” family Juliette has left is a grandfather and half-sister. Sarah insists Juliette approach her grandfather, Sir Roger, and declare herself part of the family. Juliette isn’t convinced. She’s not out for money, though having enough to keep her and her foster mother comfortable wouldn’t hurt, but the idea of having a family calls to her.
Her American suitor is a whole different story. Thomas Jameson is a wealthy shipping magnate currently in England to gather investors. He witnesses a beautiful woman step up to protect a small child from an angry shopkeeper and makes himself known to her – as a lion might introduce himself to a rare steak. But Juliette, in an effort to save the child, presented herself as “Lady Juliette”, daughter of Lord Whitehall. Thomas doesn’t give one hoot who she is, he just wants her. They meet a few time before he learns she is not a lady but a lady’s maid. He still doesn’t care; he just wants her in his bed.
This leads to me coming thisclose to not finishing a book for review. Let’s preface this by saying that a woman’s body “betraying her” coupled with a hero who gives no thought to precautions or consequences sits proudly at #1 on my list of Things I Hate. Once Juliette is unmasked as a maid, Thomas starts laying it on real thick talking about fate and how good they’d be together, yada yada yada. It’s unclear to the reader and to Juliette if his intentions run towards “we would be good together ’til we are old and gray” or “we would be good together ’til the maid knocks on the door in the morning.” We learn soon enough what he means. Juliette’s body, of course, “betrays her” and Thomas promptly tells her he’s a loner and always will be. See ya, sweetheart!
There are a few other things that would have kept this out of keeper category even if Thomas had been blessedly blown to smithereens in the second chapter. The author obviously did her homework regarding the duties of servants and numerous cleaning solutions in Turn of the Century England. But, while there were still some prosperous families, the nobility had lost a good deal of their position and fortune and Clarke’s portrayal of the aristocracy felt more Regency than Victorian. There also seemed to be a real lack of wit. Juliette is portrayed as being acerbic and outspoken, which usually gets her sacked. But she didn’t seem bitingly witty to me. Her actions and comments come out bland even if secondary characters respond as though she had cut someone or something to the quick. I gave up trying to think of Juliette as this outspoken vixen early on.
In effort to keep this review somewhat PG, I left out the names I used in my head when referring to Thomas. Let’s just say I questioned his legitimacy often, and found he resembled various parts of the human anatomy. The only thing that could have saved The Bare Truth is if Juliette had kicked him out on his butt at the end. I would have cheered. But she didn’t and I couldn’t let myself give this book anything higher than a D+. It could have been different…Poor Juliette!