Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: Ten Ways To Be Adored When Landing A Lord by Sara McLean

It is a well-known fact that during the 18th and 19th centuries in Western Europe, and specifically England, there were few havens for beleagured, troubled, abused, wounded, and homeless women. The class lines were tightly drawn and even aristocratic women were at a loss to find a place of refuge when financially destitute, abused, raped, or had become pregnant through foolish liasons with unprincipled men. However, from time to time, "underground" locations were available, existing in fear of legal or personal retribution. Minerva House which is the context/setting for this novel, was just such a place.

Lady Isobel was an aristocrat, the daughter of an earl who had left the family estate six years ago and who had systematically gambled away the assets of the estate with his profligate living in London. Now her father is dead and her 10-year-old brother is the earl. She presides over a household that is not only rare in its purpose but unusual in its staffing--all the servants are female. They masquerade as male footmen, butler, and stable master working with the chamber maids and cook, all of whom are refugee/residents of this place. But all are women who have come to Lady Isobel for hiding from family, stalkers, abusers, or from society in general. The latest of these women is the sister of one of the most powerful peers in England and Lord Nicolas St. John has, as a friend and expert tracker during the Napoleonic Wars and finder of missing persons, has been enlisted by the Duke to find his sister.
Knowing that she has nothing to support these women or any who may come in the future, she seeks to sell her collection of rare Grecian marbles--statues and busts of Greek mythological personages. As it turns out, Lord Nicolas is not only an expert tracker but he is also an expert in antiquities and Lady Isobel engages him to appraise the statuary and find a buyer. That may be all well and good, but just by being in the house Lady Isobel knows that her secret haven for women is at risk. She risks her own safety and those under her protection as well as risking her own personal emotional involvement with Lord Nicolas to whom she is greatly attracted, recognizing that the attraction is mutual.

This is the romance of two individuals who are hiding--Lady Isobel from a society she views as uncaring about women and children, hiding from men who she has come to believe pursue women for their own pleasure and then throw them away. He own father had repeatedly "sold" her as a prospective bride to gambling buddies in lieu of payment of his losses. Likewise, Lord Nicolas began his career as a tracker when he was old enough to leave home and to search for his mother who had just up and left him and his brother and their grieving father. He used his mobile living habits as an excuse for hiding from permanence, from lasting relationships--after all, his mother had abandoned him by leaving, and his father had "left" him and his brother when he retreated into himself. Loving someone simply meant that they would leave and he didn't need anymore of that. Both these fine people lived in a kind of pervading fear--a fear that insulated them from any kind of romantic involvement of a permanent nature.

This novel deals with some important issues which involved the place of women in that society, how they were valued (little beyond their beauty, money, child-bearing abilities, or servitude capacities), and how they could be curbed and corraled in order to "fit in" to a social set of rules and regs, while leaving men to do pretty much as they pleased. But it also deals with the deep hurts and their consequences when parents and spouses abandon those for whom they have a responsibility, little caring that hearts will be broken, spirits injured--sometimes so deeply they cannot ever heal--children traumatized, and future relationships impacted negatively. Some of the characters in this novel were given a second chance and they took it. Sometimes people can find ways of picking up the pieces of their lives, but in those days there were few helps for women especially. Others, however, chose to remain hidden and to take what little they had of life, guard it jeolously, and never move on.

Ms McLean has an impressive writing portfolio and has become a favorite among so many romance readers. She has written a number of fine historical novels and like this one has demonstated a fine knowledge and skill of the writing task and the storyteller's art. The plot is not an unusual one in that it fits in the classic historical romance mold, but the storyline opens up some unusual aspects of English society which give added dimension to the context. The characters are many and varied, but the main characters are quite fascinating--a strong woman who is willing to do just about anything, including manual labor, in order to provide a refuge for troubled women whom she called "the girls; an aristocrat whose sense of honor was often troubled in that he was pulled in different directions, but whose personal experience had shaped a man of strong principles and solid values. His best friend was also a man of principle, whose understanding of friendship went farther than is often true today.

This is a very good book and one that historical romance readers will enjoy. I think the early chapters were a bit on the dry side--lots of back story and development, some of which I felt was a bit much. But all in all, the reader gains some valuable insights into the society of that day and its attitudes toward those who live outside the upper eschelons. I give this book a rating of 3.75 out of 5.

This novel was released by Harper Collins on 01 November 2010.

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