Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29833-4
Historical Romance, 2015
Lord Randall, is an Earl who is also a soldier, leading an acclaimed band of action men called Randall’s Rogues to strike a blow against Napoleon Bonaparte. As you can imagine, he’s not too keen on mingling when he’s back in London and his sister asks him to attend a soiree. Macho men need things to smash and people to kill or else they get bored, you know. However, the soiree is full of Harriett’s more unconventional friends – poets, scholars, and self-professed feminists – and he meets his sister’s friend from her schooldays, Mary Endacott. He is fascinated by her, and she reciprocates the attraction, but alas, he’s an Earl and she’s a… “radical”, in her own word. He may go off to war, but an Earl simply cannot marry a well-born lady with a spotless reputation, who just happens to run her own school attended by the daughters of some of the finer members of the Ton. It is simply impossible!
While A Lady for Lord Randall may be part of a series called Brides of Waterloo, the bulk of this story happens in more idyllic England, and it is only late in the story that some kind of lightweight wartime drama takes place. Even then, that part of the story serves merely as a plot device to get the heroine back in the hero’s life after she’s decided to walk out on him. If you want stories of wartime romances, Carla Kelly is still the only author in this line to go to, I’m afraid. Of course, there is nothing wrong with stories set in England – just adjust your expectations a bit if you are led by the lovely cover art and the vague synopsis on the back cover to expect a more militaristic kind of romance.
My disappointment with this story lies in how much it squanders its potential by resorting to shallow characterization and vapid emotional drama. We have a hero who is determined to do his duty by his country, and a heroine who claims to be against the aristocracy and is, instead, all about the people and the common good. The differences between them alone could make a pretty good tale of opposites attract. Unfortunately, it isn’t long before the tired old gimmicks arise.
Oh, Randall once fell in love with a woman who turned out to be the town bicycle, having ridden by his own father as well, and he had many affairs during the rebound, so now he is absolutely, totally, 1,500% guaranteed certain that he will never be able to be faithful to any woman, so oh woe, he can’t be good for Mary. He knows it! Of course, having sex with her is alright, it’s just that she is too good for him to make an honest woman out of in the end. It’s for her own good, so stop judging him, people!
As for Mary, her being a “radical” turns out to be another tired euphemism for another creature who has no problems having sex with the man but heaven forbids that she marries him as he never claims to love her! Okay, so being his lover can put her livelihood in jeopardy (she knows this), when her students’ parents discover that she’s giving away the milk for free, but he’s worth it! She gets offended when he offers to give her nice things, because putting out to a guy for nice things makes her his mistress. It’s better to just put out for free… oh, just go with the flow, people. Mary’s a “radical”, so let’s just nod along with her or we’ll still be here come Christmas.
Once she has put out the milk and they have enjoyed it along with cookies and bread and what not, the author needs a conflict since there are still some pages to go. What better way than to have Randall go crazy and, out of the blue and most illogically, accuse Mary of being a fortune-grubbing ho who wants to stop him from going back to the war front to kill French people? Mary, naturally, realizes that she’s right all along: all men, especially men of the aristocracy, are ill-mannered, immoral, untrustworthy, hateful users! #killallmen #menrfullofrape #rapedbypatriarchy #donate2mypatreonpls She will never forgive him! Of course, the page count is running out – and he says the L word, so in a space of two pages she goes from “We are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together!” to “I’m pregnant! I love you forever!” – so all of a sudden, it’s happily ever after for everyone.
I’m so happy for them, and even happier that this story has come to an end. Like I’ve said, this story could have been grand, but the author instead opts to go for one-dimensional characterization and silly misunderstanding issues to prolong everyone’s pain. How sad, really.