The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray
The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray is the first book in Anna Bradley’s The Swooning Virgins Society series featuring four young women who are students at the Clifford Charity School for Wayward Girls. It’s a good start to a new series and, in spite of some minor flaws, one I can recommend to readers of Georgian romance and historical mysteries.
Sophia Monmouth has attended the Clifford Charity School for Wayward Girls since she was six, a Seven Dials orphan rescued by Lady Amanda Clifford. The school offers all the usual lessons but also those necessary to turn young ladies into detectives and all-around ninjas. Lady Clifford has asked Sophia to help clear a young man, Jeremy, from the charge of murder. Both ladies know that Jeremy is not capable of such a thing and so Sophia starts to hunt down the others present at the murder scene to see what she can uncover.
Tristan Stratford is the newly minted Earl of Gray but he would rather keep his job as a Bow Street Runner. When his dear friend (and other Runner) is murdered, he is happy to see someone quickly arrested and convicted. Justice has been served! While minding his own business at his home in Mayfair, he spots a thief on the roof next door. When the thief nimbly climbs off the roof and tracks someone leaving that house, he feels it’s his duty to track the thief and make sure all is well. When he apprehends the thief, he is surprised to discover ‘he’ is a ‘she’, a student at the dratted Clifford School.
Tristan and Sophia continue to cross paths as she searches for the real murderer and he backs the decision of the courts. They are both seeking justice but coming from completely different angles. According to Sophia:
“Good little girls didn’t get rewards. Justice didn’t have anything to do with goodness, any more than it did with evil. So, there was really no point in being good at all, was there?”
According to Tristan, the court is the “best arbiter of justice”. Despite their different approaches to solving this crime, it becomes apparent to both that more is going on here than a simple murder and they, reluctantly, decide to join forces and find out what really happened.
I loved the scenes at the Clifford School with the four students reading Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels together. I also liked Sophia with her tenacity and independence. She doesn’t mess around! These qualities both attract and frighten Tristan who is confident in his opinions and confused by Sophia’s place in the world. I liked Tristan, too, but found him to be a little overbearing sometimes. But, he was willing to change his convictions so bonus points! There is good sexual tension between the two and Ms. Bradley does a great job building it to its crescendo. Love takes a while to bloom but is believable when it does. The mystery is also well done with layers of villains and intriguing plot twists; it’s solved by the end of the novel but the true villains remain at large – I am assuming they will get their due in future books.
I really wanted more information about Lady Amanda Clifford – why she started the school, how she had acquired these skills, and who was her mysterious benefactor/lover who helped to save the day. It would have made sense to tell us this in book one, but maybe it will come later. I was also disappointed that there was no talk of birth control. Sophia (who is, incidentally, NOT a virgin) is pretty street smart and I found it odd that she would take such chances. Also, I just kept thinking of Earl Grey tea whenever I read “the Earl of Gray.”
The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray is a good beginning to a series that looks promising. The next installment is due out this spring and I’ll be looking for it.