Okay, you’ve caught me–i love historical romances, and i have since approximately October 2003 when i accidentally bought Mesmerized by Candace Camp. For the longest time, she was the only historical author that i would read, however, the Smart Bitches changed that with the review of The Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. Despite learning of less cliched historical romance novels, Camp’s books are still automatic buys for me.
Last month, the release of A Lady Never Tells started the Willowmere Series, which features the 4 American Bascombe sisters (only one of which is a featured heroine) and their British cousins (The Earl of Stewkesbury, his brother Fitz–hero in book #2–, and his step brother Sir Royce–hero in book #1).
In A Lady Never Tells, we are introduced to Mary (the heroine), Rose, Lily, and Camelia Bascombe, who have fled the United States after their mother’s death (their evil step father tried to sell Rose into marriage) and have arrived in England to search for their grandfather the Earl of Stewkesbury, who had disowned their mother Flora when she married the younger son of a lower aristocrat.
Trouble seems to follow the sisters, as when they disembark from the ship that brought them to England a thief makes off with their case (with all of their documents they had planned to use to prove who they were to the Earl). Like any American girl (stereotype, much?), Mary, Rose, and Cam take off after the thief. Watching this scene is Sir Royce Winslow and Gordon Harrington (a foppish sort that likes to partake in hideously colored clothes, too much alcohol, women, and gambling). Calmly, Sir Royce trips the assailant and gets the case back, and escorts the sisters to an inn (even paying for their stay). Before leaving he takes as payment a kiss from Mary, who while surprised enjoys the kiss.
The next day, Mary takes off in search of her grandfather, and in the process gets thrown out of the Earl’s home after she insists that she is his granddaughter. After getting lost, she returns to the inn to find Sir Royce visiting with her sisters. With very little reluctance, she tells him what she was doing and who she is. Although skeptical at first, Royce agrees to take the sisters to the Earl, claiming a relationship with the man. So, they make the trip to the Earl’s estate, where they learn that the Earl is not their grandfather Reginald (he died a year earlier), but their cousin Oliver Talbot, who looks over their papers and declares them his cousins, making himself their guardian.
While there are some hilarious scenes, including one in which Oliver has invited the Aunts (sisters to the girls’ mother) to meet the new members of the family (the girls joke about having to defend their family farm from raiding Indians when confronted by Aunt Euphronia’s distaste at learning that they know how the use a gun), A Lady Never Tells in lacking in respect to Camp’s other books. The romance is brushed aside and the mystery aspect (the girls keep being attacked) falls flat. My biggest criticism is that there was very little from Sir Royce’s point of view. For instance, he seems to hold some antipathy towards Oliver that is never explored (or even really addressed) and his relationship with the icy Lady Sabrina is given very little explanation (apparently, she broke his heart by choosing to marry an older titled gentleman over him, souring him on women because, by God, they must all be exactly like the Ice Queen).
My one hope is that when Oliver’s book An Affair Without End is released (March 2011) it will address the relationship between Oliver and Sir Royce.