Evelyn M Hill, $2.99
Historical Romance, 2018
The English Lieutenant’s Lady has me pretty well in its grip early on, when Amelia Griggs holds the hero and his friend at gunpoint with confidence and poise. She doesn’t immediately buy his words just because he’s hot or she has this magical ability to sense inner goodness in hot men. In just two pages, author Evelyn M Hill has me convinced that her heroine is indeed a sturdy sort who is making a life for herself and her brother out there. As for the hero Geoffrey Montgomery – the English lieutenant in the title – he isn’t even hot. The heroine finds him plain-looking, nondescript even, which makes him the perfect British spy in Oregon City in the 1840s, a time when both the English and the Americans insist that the Oregon territory is theirs and no, there will not be any sharing.
As you can probably tell, this is a story with sees both the hero and the heroine having secrets to keep. He’s a spy, of course, while Lia also her own secrets to keep and demons to flee from. Nonetheless, as she and her brother travel to seek a place where they belong, while he goes about doing his undercover thing, their paths will cross enough to make sure that they are going to fall in love and make everything even more complicated.
This story has a promising beginning, as the ingredients for a good story is there: the heroine is half-Native American, but she can’t seek a home with that side of her family as she is too white-passing, and a woman like her living among Native Americans may cause problems for the people who take her in. Lia really has no where to turn to, and her determination to carve a place for herself and her brother is admirable, especially when she seems capable enough in her efforts. No hee-hee-hee antics, no naïveté, no stammering “Oh no, I can’t lie, I can’t do any un-feminine things, eek!” nonsense. The hero is increasingly conflicted over his spy stuff when he starts seeing the people he is spying on as… well, people, and he begins to realize that he can’t bring himself to drag the horrors of war onto their doorsteps.
Both the hero and the heroine initially interact very well, and despite this one being a Christian romance, I find the author’s use of quotes from the Good Book very well and seamlessly done. I’m not Christian (agnostic, if you must know), so I generally have an aversion to overly preachy stories of this sort. For the early half of this story, the author does everything right. Lia and Geoffrey come off as likable, goodhearted people with believable flaws to tamper their virtue and keep them from being too one-dimensionally goody-goody. I am starting to believe that I will love this one.
Well, maybe not love. The story settles into some kind of a rut when the heroine becomes a schoolteacher. From that point, Lia morphs from a tough frontier girl into a schoolteacher in a new town, a common trope that is far less interesting. I find myself wanting the earlier Lia back, as schoolteacher Lia is stuck in a familiar story line featuring difficult children and a disapproving female character as her foil.
Meanwhile, Lia and Geoffrey start piling on guilt, recriminations, doubts, and more as if they were both competing to see who can build a biggest and highest pile-up of angst on their heads. During the second half, the mood of the story shifts from two people trying to make the best of their circumstances while bolstered by their faith to two people acting like they were forced to wear ice-cold underwear for the rest of the story.
I like the first half of The English Lieutenant’s Lady. Adversity! Prejudice! Determination despite the odds! All this play out like a Western romance I could certainly love to pieces… until Lia gets hired as a schoolteacher and then the story turns into something more mundane and ho-hum. Can I ask for a reboot?