"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Never Less Than A Lady (Lost Lords Series) by Mary Jo Putney

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Summary: A widowed midwife, exiled from her family, marries the only man who can bring her back into society with ease.

In one day, Julia is kidnapped in order to be brought somewhere else to be killed (why don’t they just kill her there?), is rescued by a man she met a year ago casually, and becomes engaged to that man.

I miss Mary Jo Putney and hoped that this book would renew my enthusiasm for her. This was a disappointing story, more appropriate for a novella or a romantic short story anthology.

Major Alexander Randall needs to marry, as he is the heir to the Earl of Daventry. It just so happens that his dead cousin is the dead husband of Julia. His dead cousin was a brutal sadist and so Alexander stayed away for years. In fact, he never even knew his cousin’s wife. So when it turns out that his cousin married a woman and abused her, nobody thinks to make the connection from this plain midwife and the terrorized widow. It’s also possible that Julia pushed her abusive husband and may have caused his death. (We’ve seen that plot line once or twice before so I expected better from MJP.)

And Julia’s father-in-law is insane. Really. He never forgives his daughter-in-law, and sends out goons to kidnap her from her isolated cottage, where she was living after she faked her own death. Alexander just happens to be at the manor house when a maid ran for help and he vows to save her.  Complicated enough for you?

Alexander rescues Julia, and they spend an intimate (but not sexual) night together hiding from the kidnappers. By morning, Alexander has met his cousin's widow, found out that he abused her, that she was charged with murder and that she faked her own death after her father rejected her. They are also engaged. Alexander is also happy because if he marries Julia, he can restore Julia to her previous position, has a wife that is completely appropriate socially and seems to be just what he needs.

The abuse Julia suffered does interfere with their sex life, but only for a little bit. They are well-matched, despite being relative strangers and formerly strange relatives.

They confront the Earl of Daventry who finally stops having his daughter in law killed after his own child, a daughter by his third wife, is born.

Confused yet? That’s only because MJP tried to take a simple plot and the marriage of convenience plotline into a full novel. I miss her earlier work. This is only for devoted fans of MJP.

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