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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Review: Lady Lost

I have to hand it to Jane Goodger, after finishing How to Please a Lady, and despite not being completely in love with it, I dove back into my Kindle to see if I had other books in the series. Turns out I did, the third and final book of the Lost Heiresses trilogy, Lady Lost.

Hey, so remember the terrible, vile, no-good Duke the heroine in How to Please a Lady was supposed to marry?  Well he's now back out on the prowl and has set his sights on Lady Lilian Martin. Her father passed when she was quite young and a religious fanatic distant cousin inherited the title. Her mother is knocking on death's door and is desperate to secure a good marriage for one of her daughters before she pushes up daisies. The Duke seems like the answer to Mama's prayers and he's paying attention to Lilian, despite her reservations - until he sees youngest sister, barely 16-year-old, Theresa, at a house party.  Mama is desperate and even though Theresa is barely 16, well one daughter wed to a Duke is better than none.  Shortly after the wedding, Mama dies.

Lilian is living with her sister and brother-in-law, blessedly in a large house with servants who sneakily protect her from the Duke's lecherous, rapist ways when she hears a noise in the night. She discovers a pistol lying on the floor (that she, naturally, foolishly picks up) and the Duke lying in a pool of his own blood.  Her sister then happens upon the scene and starts screeching that Lilian is a murderer and Lilian, realizing how terrible it all looks, makes it look more terrible by running away.

Marcus Granton will one day be an Earl and has gone into exile at his family's rambling, rundown Yorkshire estate after his wife dies in another man's bed - and this other man was hardly the first. Marcus knew he was being cuckolded but this last humiliation is too much, as are the whispers that he drove his wife to her wicked ways because he's such a cold fish. He's in his carriage heading back to his country home when he happens upon Lilian, very sick and cold, passed out in road after walking for untold miles. Being the grumpiest of grumpy heroes, he's loathe to bring in a house guest, but he can't very well leave her there to die.  Imagine his surprise when no sooner does he deposit Lilian in the only ready, aired out bedroom in the manor (uh, his) that he hears a knock on his door.  A sour, vile matron with a small 5-year-old child - claiming that the young girl, Mabel, is his.  Except, she isn't.  She is his dead wife's illegitimate daughter, whom she got pregnant with while Marcus was off in America dealing with his wayward sister in the previous book.  He knows he's not the Daddy, but that begs the question - who is?  

There's a lot going on here, and it does take a while to cook.  Of course the Duke's murder is the talk of every town, but word hasn't quite reached Marcus just yet.  Still, Lilian knows her days are numbered and in a bit of a panic.  This Big Secret is actually dispatched rather quickly and what happens next is a bunch of back-and-forth with a constable handling the case. They solve it rather quickly through sheer luck (and a confession) but it still doesn't quite fit, so it's a lot of case closed, case not closed, oh wait case is closed again.  

The first half of the book is Marcus being a grumpy grump and slowly opening himself up to Lilian and Mabel who proceed to charm him despite his efforts to resist. It's really a lovely slow build and when the first kiss and love scene happen, as a reader I actually anticipated them.  

Of course it all goes to hell in a handbasket in the final third. Goodger is writing a Victorian-set story after all, which means Drama Llama is pretty much a requirement!  There's the small matter of the Duke's murder, the fact that Lilian, an unchaperoned Lady has been living with Marcus for many, many days, and the twist to Mabel's paternity - which honestly I should have seen coming and am ashamed of myself for missing it.  In my defense I did inhale the book in a day, I didn't take much time to stop and think about it before the big reveal.

There's lots of action and drama at the end, and we of course get the requisite happy epilogue with the heroine giving birth to her first child - but 5 years later! Honestly I think that's worth a mention. A heroine who isn't pushing out the heir 9 months after the wedding? Practically unheard of in romance - especially since once this couple starts hitting the sheets they barely get out of the bedroom.

The Drama Llama being backloaded to the final third of the story was a lot, but it did make me race through to the finish line. It's a really nice example of a grumpy romance hero, who is quite legitimately grumpy!, opening himself up to love without completely morphing into a pod person. I adored the declarations of love, so fitting for the hero's character and the heroine's personality is the perfect compliment. I genuinely liked these two as a couple, Mabel was perfectly sweet without being too plot moppet-y, and I was a sucker for all the Victorian angst at the end.  A nice historical read.

Final Grade = B


azteclady said...

Okay, so Lillian's now-widowed sister is the worst, and I hope Lillian is no longer 16 when all this happens. tempted!

But the ARC TRB shelves need to go down a lot before I try these.

Wendy said...

Oh yes, the sister turns out to be The. Worst. Imagine a spoiled brat times 1000.

And this isn't clear in my review - but the first chapter opens with Lilian "enjoying" her first Season at 18, her mother being very ill and desperate, and the terrible sister being not-quite 16 just yet. Evil Duke dumps the idea of Lilian once he sees the younger sister and the next chapter is like 5 or so years into the future. So by this time Terrible Sister is like 21 and our heroine is 23.

azteclady said...

Holy god.

Pedophile evil Duke may be why sister is terrible, but still and YIKES.