August 29, 2013
"You and me, we're gonna be pardners
You and me, we're gonna be pals
You and me, we'll do and dare alike
We'll share what there's to share alike
That goes for money, pleasure or gals
You and me will be the greatest pardners, buddies and pals." From the Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin movie Pardners.
Hopefully, the marriage in this book doesn't go the same way that the Lewis and Martin partnership went. Lady Anne's Lover is the last in The London List series by Maggie Robinson. Our heroine is Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont, a nineteen year-old on the run from her sexually abusive father. With the help of Evangeline from Lord Gray's List,
Imaculata has managed to land a job as a housekeeper in the remote wilds of Wales. She thinks she will be perfectly safe with some old codger, but as it turns out there is no old codger. Nope, just a drunken one-armed man who turns out to be our hero, Gareth. Even though Gareth spends his time drowning his sorrows in whatever alcohol he can get his hands on, it doesn't take him long to see through her disguise (she's an aristocrat who doesn't know the first thing about cooking or cleaning, so it isn't really that difficult). Anyway, Gareth's home is falling down around his ears...he needs money and he needs it fast. Anne (Imaculata) has money but no access to it - she either needs to come of age or marry. She solves her problem by suggesting to Gareth that they marry and in short order the banns are being read. Of course this is a romance novel so things are not as simple as that last sentence implied. Anne isn't too keen on marriage or men; she wants her money and her freedom. She also wants a marriage of convenience. Gareth feels sorry for himself - he lost an arm and a fiancée - so now he drinks. And, this is not a small drinking problem; if he were in this time period he would be called an alcoholic. He has promised Anne that he will not drink, but still proceeds to imbibe ale because as all people with a drinking problem know, drinking ale isn't really an issue. He also has agreed to the marriage of convenience but plans on seducing Anne anyway. We also have the complication that the village people blame him for the death of his former fiancée, the town floozy. So, yes there is also a murderer meandering through the pages of this story.
Before you think that this is some dark, angst-filled book, let me assure you that the lighthearted moments far outweigh the darker side, and that's what makes this book a pleasant read. I enjoyed the moments Anne and Gareth were together. Their dialogue was genuine. They are both imperfect people who form a perfect partnership. Even when Gareth falls off the wagon, (and he falls with a bang), the resolution is quick and reasonably painless.
Did I have any quibbles? Sure. I'm not a big fan of vast age differences and there was one in this story - she was nineteen and he was thirty-three. However, at times, she seemed the more mature of two. I also thought the resolution of both the murder and her father was glossed over, almost an afterthought - getting those loose ends tied before the last page. Her father especially, deserved more punishment than he was actually given.
Overall, this was a nice ending to a pleasant series. I'm looking forward to Maggie Robinson's moving forward from the Regency time period to the Edwardian with her next series, Ladies Unlaced. Love the Edwardians.
Time/Place: Regency England/Wales