THE UNLIKELY LADY – Valerie Bowman
St. Martin's Press
England – 1816
Jane Lowndes is an avowed spinster. She has no interest in marriage, parties, or society; it's books that Jane is devoted to. Of course no one has ever told her she was pretty or shown much interest in her, and Jane is fairly certain it's because she is plain and wears glasses. It doesn't help, of course, that when she is thrown into a social situation, she whips a book out of her reticule, finds a potted plant to hide behind, and avoids any opportunity to meet anyone. But now one of her best friends, Cass, is getting married, and Jane will be attending the week-long festivities, along with their other friend, Lucy, who recently married a duke. Jane's mother is thrilled at the chance her daughter can meet an eligible young man, and agrees to allow Jane to leave early when Jane informs her that her chaperone will meet her there. Mrs. Bunbury, the chaperone, is, however, a figment of Jane's vivid imagination.
Upon arrival at the country house, Jane tries very hard not to be anti-social for the benefit of Cass. But when the most annoying man arrives on the scene, Jane's hackles go up. She and Garrett Upton have never gotten along. Jane's scathing comments to him are returned in full, and the fact that a woman friend of his has begged an invitation to the house party just shows how shallow he is. Jane makes sure Upton is well aware that her feelings for him haven't improved at all.
Garrett is stunned when Isabella Langford shows up at the house. Her late husband was Garrett's friend who died in the war, and for years Garrett has made sure Harold's wife wanted for nothing. But he has never given her the idea that he was interested in a deeper relationship. It's obvious upon her arrival, and how she treats Jane, that Isabella wants more from Garrett and thinks that Jane is her competition.
A masquerade ball is all that is needed to show Jane that she may not be plain, and Garrett that Jane isn't just a bluestocking. But Isabella wants everyone to be sure that she is the one most suitable for Garrett.
THE UNLIKELY LADY is a joyous romp in Regency England, filled with bright characters, scintillating conversations, and just plain fun. Jane's intelligence has put a wall up around her as she feels that she and society will never work. Garrett has guilt over Harold's death, which manifested in his attitude towards Isabella, so both need to work out painful issues.
A light- hearted visit to the nineteenth century, THE UNLIKELY LADY is a very enjoyable read.
THE UNLIKELY LADY – Valerie Bowman
Playful Brides Series , Book 3
St. Martin's Paperbacks
London and Surrey, England, Spring 1816
The three friends are at it again. Lady Cassandra Monroe is getting married. There will be a week's house party for family and close friends in Surrey before the ceremony. Of course Miss Jane Lowndes is invited and plans to go, but she doesn't want to be burdened with a chaperone of her mother's choosing, so she makes one up. You see, Jane is a bespectacled bluestocking—much devoted to women's rights—and wishes never to marry. The third young lady, Lucy, Duchess of Claringdon, newly married herself, is a supreme plotter. Together they think of ways to hide the fact that Mrs. Bunbury doesn't exist when Jane's mother arrives for the wedding. And perhaps a tiny scandal might put Jane safely on the shelf?
This will not be the first time these three have connived to make things go their way. There was a fourth—rather unwilling—party to previous plots: Lucy's cousin, Garret Upton, present heir to the Earl of Upbridge. Jane and Garrett are like flint to steel, constantly bickering in a game of one-upmanship. One important addition to the story is the widow of a close friend of Garrett's who served with him in the late war. She pretty much invites herself to the house party and causes nothing but trouble.
Let the games begin!
THE UNLIKELY LADY has much the same cast as the previous books, THE UNEXPECTED DUCHESS and THE ACCIDENTAL COUNTESS. While I can easily recommend this third book as a fun read, it would add a lot to have read the two earlier ones, especially to get to know all the major characters from the beginning.