Courtney Milan, $0.99
Historical Romance, 2015
A Right Honorable Gentleman was previously part of Premiere, the RWA anthology that was not made available for purchase to third rate citizens of the world (which would be, in the definition of the so-called digital revolution, anyone who is not living in the USA or the UK), so it is nice of Courtney Milan to make her very short story available as a standalone purchase.
Now, when it comes to short stories, I’m fine with very short ones provided that the author can tell me a good story. The author’s track record with short stories so far has been spotty, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I realize just how on point – on absolutely amazingly point – everything in this story is.
Catherine Hooks is a good governess. She knows it. She is the only one who can manage the only brat of the Right Honorable Edward Glennon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now that the brat is off to Eton within a few months, it is time for her to hand in her resignation and ask for her employer’s reference.
He waved her away when she told him she’d answered a few advertisements. He left the room when she told him that there might be some inquiries.
When a solicitor inquired about her character, he forced himself to answer with the truth. Miss Catherine Hooks is the finest governess I have ever had the pleasure of encountering, he wrote. I cannot imagine a world without her.
He sent the message, and then, in a fit of pique, promptly burned all the correspondence – his drafts, the letter from the solicitor, everything.
You see, he has long fallen in love with the governess, but with him being what he is, he only acknowledges his feelings with mounting panic when he realizes that she’s on the verge of walking out of his life for good. She loves him too, even with his cranky temper and all, and it’s a plus that she’s the only one who can turn him into putty in her hands. You have to hand it to her – she seems to have the men in the household well under her control. Anyway, these two are now forced to accept that they have feelings for one another. The thing is, what can they do about these feelings?
As a short story, A Right Honorable Gentleman is all about scenes that work so well on me that I find myself hanging on to every word the moment I begin reading. This romance is a classic tale of the grouch and the woman who has gotten under his skin – the same premise that worked so well for the various Pygmalion homages and based-on-that-play stories – and Edward is one such grouch that has my heart skipping a beat despite myself. I can’t help it, I have a soft spot for men who think they are in charge only to start leaking feels and “I can’t live without you!” sentiments, and this guy does it with style. Catherine is a heroine after my heart too – she could have been another sassy governess sort, but in the author’s hands, she instead becomes just a sensible heroine who knows her self worth and who just happens to have one of the most powerful men in England rolling around in agitation at the idea of never seeing him again.
To be fair, she’s not so confident when it comes to her feelings for him too, so it’s a democratic kind of lovestruck silliness all around for everyone. The chemistry is just right, the conversations make me sigh, and, despite the brevity of the story, I feel that everything works and the story ends on a near-perfect note. Near-perfect, that is – I’d have loved it more if the story had been shorter and ended the moment the heroine tells the hero, “Next Wednesday.” Everything after that kills the perfect high note struck by the heroine’s response to the hero.
Still, this is a short story that, at the same time, offers me a brief glimpse into something beautiful, something that breaks my heart and makes it sing at the same time. I want to know more about these two when the story ends, but at the same time, I feel that knowing more would only dilute the evocative response of mine to this story. What I’m saying is that A Right Honorable Gentleman is just right – the right length, the right couple, the right emotions… just so right.