Eliza has settled in as the efficient receptionist at the Evensong Agency. So when her boss asks her to temporarily resolve a family problem, Eliza agrees. The governess job isn’t her first choice but watching over her boss’s niece-in-law should be a breeze. If only the adorable girl’s father wasn’t one of those “unconventional” artist types. Shirtless, covered in paint, and answering his own door, Nicholas isn’t what she expected a Scottish baron’s brother to be like. But when the little girl jumps into an antique vase and her father does nothing, Eliza knows she’s desperately needed.
Nick and daughter Sunny have been getting along just fine since the last governess died. Why had his meddlesome sister-in-law sent a proper governess to interfere in their fun times? He may not be Sunny’s legitimate father, but he’s all she’s had for years and that’s the only kinship that matters. He’s not about to let a tedious governess stifle his bright daughter or take her prudish opinions to heart.
Influenza hits the household, making Eliza’s arrival fortuitous, and then Nick returns home beaten and bleeding from a stab wound. The papers learn of his brawl. They plaster headlines about “Naughty Nicky” and his near death at the hand of his nude model’s brutish boyfriend. Reporters swarm the house and stalk the garden. No other governess is willing to take the permanent job with such a scandalous man. Stuck together with little hope of reprieve, Eliza and Nick eventually overcome prejudice and end up changing themselves for the better.
At the start, Eliza is proper to the point of seeming like a shrew. She rants at Nick at the most inopportune times (when he’s sick and bleeding). The fact that stating her opinions mattered more to her than her employer’s comfort put me off a little. The author did a good job crafting this “judgmental and tiresomely prudish” character. I did like that Eliza was an independent working girl who was content with her life. Get married like everyone says she ought to? Piffle. (Also, that’s such a good word!)
At first Nick is so careless in his regard of his daughter that it felt forced. But Nick’s flighty behavior fades after the first few chapters. We soon learn that he’s actually a caring, loyal individual who just happens to enjoy crafting nude art (oh. and sex. He, of course, loves sex). Taking on Sunny has forced him to adjust his life and now he finds himself regretting much of his wild youth because of how it’ll affect hers.
Both Eliza and Nick had serious flaws that made wading through their initial interactions a bit of a chore. However, their flaws made their eventual growth more satisfying.
The Reluctant Governess has enough believable drama, action, and flirtation to keep a reader’s interest without too many storylines or characters. A twist even took me by surprise. I also laughed several times. I can rarely claim both of those in the same book, but when I do, I take note.
The love scenes lean more to the explicit side than purple prose. The world building is in keeping with the period (London, October 1904). Everything from clothing to interior decoration felt authentic. I even used Kindle’s dictionary and Wikipedia features on words like “brilliantine” and “concupiscence.” I came away from the book with an increased vocabulary. If that’s not a plus, then I don’t know what is.
What about the Ladies Unlaced series?
Though there are several mentions of Mary and her new husband Lord Raeburn from In the Heart of the Highlander, a reader new to the series will have no trouble jumping in on the third book.
What is my conclusion? After the rough start, I raced through the story to see how these complete opposites could possibly end up together. As one would guess, Eliza and Nick get to know each other and through their brief association and ample adventure, they let go of inhibitions, gain some, and grow up (or in Eliza’s case…relax). Their flaws make for an interesting and satisfying — if unconventional — romance.
Drea Adams devours romance novels almost as fast as fancy chocolate. Her favorite stories feature verbal fireworks between the hero and heroine, be it in hoop skirts or skinny jeans. Read her reviews at LilyElement Reviews, http://www.lilyelement.com/search/label/Drea.