Wednesday, April 15, 2020

#TBRChallenge 2020: The Lady Flees Her Lord

The Book: The Lady Flees Her Lord by Ann Lethbridge

The Particulars: Historical romance, 2008, Sourcebooks, Out of Print, Rights Reverted / Available Self-published digital edition

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: According to my notes I picked up the Sourcebooks edition of this historical romance (published under the author's Michele Ann Young name) at RWA 2009 (Washington D.C.). So yes, this book has been in my TBR for over 10 years. Don't hate the player, hate the game.  Anyway, I know I picked this up because, if memory serves, Sourcebooks was fairly new to the whole romance thing at the time and I knew that Young was also Ann Lethbridge, who I was familiar with from her work with Harlequin Historical.  So taking a flier to pick up this book, for free, seemed like a safe bet.  Ahem, even if it did languish in my TBR for 10 years....

The Review: I haven't read many historical romances so far in 2020 and this one went down like comfort food.  Like if macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes had a baby.  It didn't hold a lot of surprises, and it gets a wee melodramatic at the end, but the pages easily turned and I liked the characters.  It didn't change my life, but believe me I've stumbled on way worse lurking in the depths of my TBR.

Lucinda, Lady Denbigh is married to a vile man. Oh she once thought she was so lucky - a plump, full-figured gal who bagged a handsome, very eligible man - only to discover he only wanted her for her father's money and to be a broodmare.  Years into the marriage, she's barren, he berates her as a cold fish, and heaps emotional abuse on her.  Worse still, his gambling is out of control and he's fallen in with a distasteful crowd.  She has no choice but to flee in the middle of the night.

Through a series of happenstance she picks up an orphaned infant girl along the way.  Yes, it's the height of melodrama but stick with me here.  Anyway, Lucinda tries to find the child's "mother" fast because she needs to get the heck out of London.  But that doesn't happen, there's no time, and the idea of placing the child in a foundling home turns her stomach.  She's ached to become a mother, so why not now?  Plus the kid provides a certain amount of camouflage. Lady Denbigh, after all, is barren.

Original Cover
She ends up in Kent, renting the dower house from Lord Hugo Wanstead, a fact he only learns after he nearly runs her daughter down with his horse.  Newly returned from the war, where he was injured, Hugo finds his country estate in disrepair thanks to Dear Old Dad.  His injury pains him, he's Brooding with a Capital B, and wants Lucinda gone - only to realize 1) she paid a year's worth rent in advance (which, that's explained) and 2) he's flat broke and his estate manager was desperate for the infusion of cash.

We all know where this is going.  Hugo and Lucinda are a perfect match but she is holding back the mother of all secrets and he's got emotional baggage up the wazoo thanks to his father and a dead wife.  He's in lust with Lucinda from the moment he lays eyes on her - he's a rather large man and she's all soft, lush curves in all the right places.  Soon she's bringing him out of his shell, he's playing Lord of the manor, and everybody in town is taken with her.  But wouldn't you know it? Her past comes back to haunt her. Because of course it does.

This was a quick one-day read for me (and it's single title length - so right book, right time - a true Calgon-take-me-away read) although anytime Lucinda's husband is on page it's a tough go.  I understand that infidelity is a non-starter for a lot of romance readers, but seriously this guy is such an a-hole that you want him to get absolutely everything that's coming to him.  His emotional abuse is hard to read, berating her for her weight, her frigidity, forcing her on a diet etc.  He's also prepared to essentially prostitute her out, which is ultimately what tips the scales to her fleeing in the dead of night. 

Extricating Lucinda from Denbigh was a definite factor in the speed in which I kept turning the pages. This was Regency England, so a woman divorcing a husband, albeit an abusive a-hole of a husband, would not have been easy (heck, it's not easy now) and Lethbridge puts a clever bow on that particular package.  Oh sure, it's the height of melodrama and a bit out of left field but it IS interesting and I'm down with interesting.

The sex scenes got a bit purple for my tastes, but I believe these two crazy kids are well-suited and well-matched, although Lucinda reverting back a bit at the end to damsel annoyed me a tinch.  I liked this world that Lethbridge created, and since republishing this book she's followed it up with a sequel about one of the heroine's brothers.  Good, not great, but time I don't regret spending.

Final Grade = B-


Jill said...

Yay for a Calgon take me away read. We could all use that right now. I picked FREEDOM'S PRICE by Jenna Kernan (b/c it had "free" in the title) and I definitely enjoyed it even though it's a little hard to grade/review.

So it's a historical romance set in Colonial era Virginia. The hero, Thomas, is doing his best to start a tobacco farm after being released from his time as an indentured servant. His sister has died, leaving him with an newborn to raise, so he buys Mary, a widowed mother, to be a wet nurse for the baby.

This book was so rough to the charcters. They are set upon by calamity after calamity. There is discussion of things like the plague and (spoiler alert) one character gets seriously ill, so if that's going to upset you right now I would not read this book. It almost remined me of an old school romance in that there was external conflict after external conflict thrown at them. At any other time I might find it overwrought. But weirdly, in a time of global disaster, I found it weirdly comforting seeing them work through problem after problem. It put my life in perspective. It helped that I set aside a lazy Saturday to read it and I told myself if it didn't have my attention quickly, I'd switch books. Instead, I found myself completely drawn into the world.

I liked the romance itself. The relationship between the characters started out pretty rocky, but they pretty much had to learn to work together and grew to respect each other before things got very physical, which I liked. The love scenes themselves were just okay, but I very much bought the romance, liked the slow burn, and I liked how the author found a way to give them a believable happy ending. Not necessarily "happily ever after" b/c there is still the sense there is a lot of hard work ahead of them, but they are together and will stay together. I also felt like the author might have been leaving room for a series? Hard to say.

In the maybe not so great category. There was a Native American character that was also a bit of helpful sidekick character and I was not 100% sold on how she portrayed, but I think the author did her research and it mostly worked (just my opinion, not an expert, YMMV). The heroine definitely starts out with a lot of unfortunately historically accurate racist views on Native people and takes her a while to learn to be a better person. That is understandably a turnoff for a lots of people.

Ultimately I would say for pandemic escapism, I would give it a personal A for being weirdly gripping, but I'm not sure I'd even finish it in other circumstances b/c it's so different from my regular style. Maybe a solid B in non global disaster circumstances?

Best wishes for health and happy reading to all1

willaful said...

Very much a mashed potato reader right now. Thank goodness for those books!

Wendy said...

Jill: I've got Freedom's Price in my TBR mostly because I tend to auto-buy Kernan's historicals - even though she's a bit hit or miss for me. Glad to hear it mostly worked for you - bodes well for me!

Willaful: Yeah, no surprises, decently written, kept me entertained. Basically it delivered what I wanted and needed. You said it best on Twitter. The books I'm moving through the quickest right now are those middle-of-the-road reads.