Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Lady Anne’s Lover by Maggie Robinson

Dear Ms. Robinson:

Lady Anne’s Lover is the first of your books I’ve read. It’s the third in your London List series but works fine as a stand-alone read. I enjoyed reading it although it left me a bit bemused. The mood of your book is light and humorous and yet your hero struggles with alcoholism, your heroine is on the run from her father who has been molesting her, a woman in the book has been raped and viciously murdered, and the villain responsible for that crime tries several times to kill again. You don’t belittle any of these issues as much as you treat them casually; there’s no angst, no gloom and doom in your prose. Lady’s Anne’s Lover worked for me but I can see other readers being distressed at its tone.

 Lady Anne's Lover by Maggie RobinsonNineteen year-old Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont, in a last-ditch attempt to escape her father (he both beats and attempts to rape her), has answered an ad in the back of the tabloid The London List placed by a Welshman who needs a housekeeper. Based on the ad, she assumes the man, Major Ripton-Jones, is an elderly gent who won’t notice her utter lack of housekeeping skills. When she arrives at his filthy home, Ripton Hall, she discovers that the Major is actually a one-armed man of 33, who spends virtually all his time plastered on gin. Imaculata, who has renamed herself Mrs. Anne Mont, doesn’t let this bother her. She needs to stay hidden from her father for the next two years at which point she can come into her inheritance and be free of his control.

Gareth, though three sheets to the wind, is taken aback when Anne introduces herself.

“Good afternoon,” Anne had said briskly, masking her surprise and keeping her chin high. She was bound to get a crick in her neck if she had to address him for any length of time.

“I believe Mi-uh, Mr. Ramsey from The London List sent word to you that I was coming.”

He looked down at her, way down as he was so very tall, with bloodshot blue eyes. “You can’t be the housekeeper.”

He did not slur a word, although his breath nearly knocked her over. She would light no matches anywhere near him or he’d go up like a Guy Fawkes effigy.

“I can indeed, sir. I have a reference from Lady Pennington.” She pulled the forged letter from her reticule.

“How old are you, Mrs. Mont? Twelve? And where is Mr. Mont?”

Evangeline had wanted her to lie and say she lost her husband at Waterloo—which would have made Anne a fourteen-year-old bride—but the man in front of her had probably lost his arm to war so that did not seem at all sporting. Anne knew she looked young—she was young, her freckles forever marking her just a step from the schoolroom. She had decided to be reasonably honest. If Major Ripton-Jones dismissed her, she’d go back to Evangeline and try for something else. Tightrope walker, street walker, it really didn’t matter as long as she escaped her father’s predatory attentions and beatings.

“Housekeepers are always addressed as ‘Mrs.,’ Major Ripton-Jones. Surely you know that. And I am old enough. I’ve been in service for—ages.”

Ever since she had walked into his house, anyway.

Anne is wrong about how Gareth lost his arm. He served fifteen years in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and survived unscathed. He shattered his arm when he fell off a tenant’s roof a year ago and had to have it amputated at the elbow.

The last year has not been kind to Gareth. His father died and left him mortgages against Ripton Hall Gareth can’t pay, the love of his life whom he was to marry dumped him when he lost his arm, she was then murdered and everyone thinks Gareth did it. He has coped with all this by letting Ripton Hall fall to pieces as he remains constantly drunk.

Gareth allows that Anne may stay though he tells her he probably can’t pay her and returns to his gin. Anne begins to clean house. The two have several amusing encounters over the next few days and then Anne gets a brilliant idea.

The fork she was holding dropped to the slate floor with a clang. Lord but she was a nitwit. The major needed a rich wife, and she needed her money to become independent. Major Ripton-Jones could marry her! Not a real marriage, of course. She hardly knew the man and what she did know did not bode well for any Mrs. RiptonJones. Who wanted a sot for a husband? For all his assurances that his habits were harmless most of the time, she was suspicious. He had a melancholy look about him quite apart from any depression he felt over the loss of his house. He was too lean (and wouldn’t be apt to fatten up from her ministrations unless she studied her cookery book with more diligence) and darkness hung over him like one of the ever-present Welsh clouds.

Anne presents her proposal to Gareth with one condition: he must give up drinking. She also tells him this will be a sex-free arrangement. Gareth agrees to the former condition and decides he’ll try to seduce her out of the second.

Anne and Gareth work as a couple despite the difference in their ages and backgrounds. Although Anne hasn’t told him about her father, Gareth realizes something has made her afraid to be touched by a man. He does work to seduce her, but does so with gentleness and intelligence. He allows Anne to reclaim her sexual self (her father just groped her; she left before he could take her virginity) slowly and on her terms. Their love scenes are sweet and sexy.

I also enjoyed their partnership outside the bedroom. Anne can’t cook to save her life, so Gareth takes over that responsibility. The two talk and argue, always treating the other with respect and often humor. It’s easy to see them as a couple who could share a life–they develop an easy rapport and work together to make Ripton Hall a safe, clean, pleasant place to live.

Neither of them is portrayed as perfect. Gareth does not completely give up drinking and, when in his cups, says some rather snotty things to Anne. For her part, Anne doesn’t tell Gareth about her past (she behaved scandalously in London in a failed attempt to make herself less attractive to her father) even when she knows she should. I liked that they were flawed and that the problems in their relationship stemmed from their behavior rather than from some outside force.

I admired the romance in this book more than the mystery. The identity of the villain wasn’t hard to deduce and the motive for murdering Gareth’s old lover and attempting to kill Anne is rather thin.

Lady Anne’s Lover is entertaining as long as one doesn’t think too hard about the serious subjects it handles so lightly. I give it a B-.

Dabney

 

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.

12 Comments

  1. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 09:52:51

    The Palace of Westminster together with the Clock Tower that wasn’t finished until 1870? Again?
    I found the cover immensely confusing and I bet I won’t be the only one. I don’t like Victorians, don’t read them, so if I was browsing, I’d discount this book because it has the current Houses of Parliament on the cover. When I started reading the review I assumed the period was mid to late Victorian (especially when the review said “tabloid,”) then I did a double take on the Waterloo reference.
    No way can the author be blamed for this, but the publisher could lose itself a lot of readers by putting a late Victorian building on a book set in the immediate post-Regency.
    so what’s wrong with using Westminster Abbey? St. Paul’s? Maybe even Covent Garden? And from the review, the book isn’t even set in London!

    ReplyReply

  2. Dabney
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 10:13:25

    The thing that hit me about the cover is that the man on it does indeed–at least visibly–just have one arm. Think how awful it would have been if he’d had two! That would have been a real cover blunder.

    ReplyReply

  3. Carolyne
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 10:44:52

    The Kindle price is a little high for me to try a new-to-me author, but I’m going to give this one a chance. I’m intrigued by a book taking on a hero who’s lost a limb (or any other serious physical injury) without it being, say, specifically about war and/or recovery and/or physical therapy. And the heroine sounds, um, plucky.

    I often find myself battling past covers to read books, anyway–I’m not a fan of some of the standard looks (the backs of ball gowns; headless torsos; disembodied heads floating over landscapes, possibly in search of their torsos)–so I can’t hold the historical inaccuracy against the author unless it’s actually inside the book as well. The guy on the cover looks studly, that works for me. I’m wary about the tone being too light, but I’m very interested in seeing how the hero overcomes his difficulties and how the heroine remakes her life.

    ReplyReply

  4. Dabney
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 10:57:43

    @Carolyne: I liked that Gareth doesn’t see himself as unable to win Anne because he’s missing an arm. He’s very pragmatic about it–he thinks that it will work best if she’s on top, for example. And Anne is equally unfazed.

    ReplyReply

  5. Janet Mullany
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 11:50:50

    @Lynne Connolly:

    No way can the author be blamed for this, but the publisher could lose itself a lot of readers by putting a late Victorian building on a book set in the immediate post-Regency.
    so what’s wrong with using Westminster Abbey? St. Paul’s? Maybe even Covent Garden?

    Ah, but none of the above have the phallic potency of Big Ben.

    ReplyReply

  6. Dabney
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 12:01:04

    @Lynne Connolly: @Janet Mullany: His baubles look endangered by the palace….

    ReplyReply

  7. cleo
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 12:12:41

    @Lynne Connelly: Maggie Robinson mentioned this very problem in the current Open Thread for Authors:

    The book is set in Wales in 1820, so of course the cover features Big Ben, which was not then constructed. But the hero kind of looks like Brad Pitt, so it’s all good.

    ReplyReply

  8. Maggie Robinson
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 12:21:28

    @Cleo, thanks for coming to the rescue. I’ve said before I’m just lucky the London Eye or the Gherkin aren’t on the covers. I think the art department heard the series name “London List” and just bolted away with it. I, of course, am way too junior in the scheme of things to get cover approval.

    And yes, Gareth’s arm is absent, so much more accurate than that Christina Dodd heroine with three arms. Dabney, thanks for your very fair review. No matter how dark my characters are, the books wind up on the light side.

    ReplyReply

  9. Dabney
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 12:26:28

    @Maggie Robinson: I enjoyed it. Thanks for writing it.

    ReplyReply

  10. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 13:37:42

    @Maggie Robinson: I got the feeling you didn’t get a say! This is the second or third Regency I’ve seen this year with Big Ben on the cover, so maybe the art department has a template! (not sure it’s the same publisher, but maybe the same artist?) And you are so right. If it’s phallic symbols they want, the Gherkin would do it for sure!
    The book itself looks interesting, and I’m off on holiday next week so I’ll add it to my list. Nice thing about e-copies is you don’t have to look at the cover too much!
    Maybe tell your editor that it might put off people looking for a Regency? I really dislike the Victorian era, and I know there are other Regency lovers who avoid Victorian.
    A friend of mine who writes for Harlequin wrote a one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged hero (I know, but the book was really popular!) and they did a suitable cover, then some genius reversed the image so it was all the wrong side.
    Anyway, whatever happens, may you get trazillions of sales!

    ReplyReply

  11. bamaclm
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 16:09:54

    She’s got at least one sale from me. :-) Sounds like a book I’ll enjoy.

    ReplyReply

  12. cead
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 16:22:22

    @Maggie Robinson:

    And yes, Gareth’s arm is absent, so much more accurate than that Christina Dodd heroine with three arms. Dabney, thanks for your very fair review. No matter how dark my characters are, the books wind up on the light side.

    Or poor Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile a Beast, where the one-armed hero clearly has two arms on the cover.

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: