The Legendary Lord
It was apparent from the first chapter of Valerie Bowman’s The Legendary Lord that this Historical Romance was not going to be historically accurate and that the characters would find themselves in implausible situations considering its setting of 1816. At this point, I made the conscious choice to go with the flow and ignore what I knew of nineteenth century societal norms and practices to suspend my disbelief, because – to be quite honest – it is exhausting to read a 320 page book with the thought, “There’s no way that could happen!” constantly intruding into your reading. I am not going to point out the inaccuracies in detail – they are painfully obvious.
The Legendary Lord is the sixth stand-alone book in The Playful Brides series. The books’ plots do not rely heavily on each other; therefore, they do not need to read in order. I have read three of the six books, and this is my least favorite.
When Christian Forester, Viscount Berkeley, arrives at his small, Scottish hunting lodge late one snowy afternoon in November, he discovers the beautiful, eighteen-year-old Lady Sarah Highgate napping in his bed. He doesn’t realize this woman is Lady Sarah Highgate, because she’s wearing maid’s clothing and she’s a young woman alone in a lodge in the wilderness during the winter. You wouldn’t find a highborn debutante at the park in London by herself – much less one in a stranger’s bed in Scotland.
Sarah doesn’t realize Christian is the lodge’s owner or a viscount; therefore, the two share an exchange of “tell me who you are” until they flush out their mutual identities, although Christian keeps his title a secret. Sarah confesses that she is the daughter of an earl and the most popular belle this Season – and that she ran away from home when her parents betrothed her to a marquess she does not want to marry. She left London with only her chaperone, Mrs. Goatsocks, and headed to her father’s Scottish hunting lodge when the two women got lost and stumbled upon Christian’s lodge, where his caretaker welcomed them and offered them shelter for the night. Christian finds Sarah alone because Mrs. Goatsocks hurt her ankle that morning and the caretaker took her to town to seek medical treatment.
A huge snowstorm hits as introductions are made, and it is obvious that neither the caretaker nor the chaperone will be returning anytime soon. Furthermore, the snow prevents Sarah or Christian from leaving, and they find themselves alone for what looks to be the next several days. Both characters surprisingly know their way around the kitchen and can cook and clean, and they fall into a domestic routine and establish an easy friendship. They are both kind, even-tempered people, and neither seems uncomfortable to be stranded with a stranger.
Since Sarah is the most sought after young lady of the Season, Christian asks her if she will spend their time together teaching him to successfully navigate society so that he can become a better suitor and find a wife. Christian is quiet, stutters when speaking with a beautiful woman, and is not the most fashionable of gentleman, so women generally fail to notice him. He’s a pleasant man who ends up being categorized as a friend rather than a potential husband or lover. Sarah is giddy to share her knowledge, and she instructs Christian on fashion, dancing, scintillating conversation and flirting. He finds it easy to learn and practice with Sarah, because he genuinely likes her and feels at ease with her. He doesn’t stutter with her even though she is beautiful, but he soon begins to feel more than just friendship towards her even though he knows she is contractually obliged to marry someone else.
As the storm begins to clear, Sarah realizes her impetuous flight to Scotland was not a smart thing to do and knows she has probably damaged her reputation beyond repair as well as devastated her parents. Although she still does not want to marry her fiancé, she doesn’t want to throw her life and reputation away and wants desperately to return to London unscathed. Accomplishing this would be an epic feat in the best of situations, but Sarah’s odds for success look especially grim when she learns that Mrs. Goatsocks’ ankle is broken and she will be bedridden in Scotland for a month. Sarah will now have to return to London without even a chaperone and somehow convince everyone that she was not off doing something scandalous.
Christian continues in his role as a good friend and is determined to find a way for Sarah to get out of this mess, and he writes to two of his married, female friends and asks them for help. He and Sarah travel – alone – to his estate where they convene with his friends to devise a plan for Sarah’s safe return. Sarah discovers that she also has feelings for Christian, but she’s resolved to resume her role as the dutiful daughter and accept marriage to the man her parents chose for her.
Sarah and Christian are not overly emotional people, and they are both very nice and very sweet. Their relationship – including their time alone – is sweet. Almost everything is sweet in The Legendary Lord, and it is boring without any real conflict or passion. There is a lot of focus on popularity, clothes, and parties making the plot feel like a Young Adult Romance, which is not crazy since Sarah is only eighteen, but Christian is thirty. He should have more depth and maturity, but he acts like a meek, awkward teenaged boy who needs to be coached on how to handle girls. I understand why he might have a hard time finding a wife – he really is unremarkable and forgettable. There is very little sexual chemistry between Sarah and Christian, because they act like siblings – the kind of siblings that never fight and just smile serenely at each other. Unfortunately, the sweet story isn’t even believable considering it is set in the early 1800s.
Sometimes a book’s lack of historical accuracy can be ignored if the story is captivating and the characters are engaging, but this is not the case with The Legendary Lord. If anything, the lack of historical accuracy only highlights the book’s shortcomings and the reader is left holding a dud.