Not Quite A Wife (The Lost Lords #6)
Mary Jo Putney
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Laurel was barely eighteen when she married the twenty-one year old James, Lord Kirkland. She was young, blinded by the heady rush of first love and it’s very soon into her marriage that she doesn’t know her husband at all. She witnesses him do something horrible, something that she can’t forget and she ends up fleeing. Her parents, disappointed in her with leaving an Earl, disown her.
Almost a decade later and Laurel has set up house with her brother who has studied to become a doctor. She also helps fund (with her purse money from her husband) and run a home for women who have been victims of abuse, particularly in marriage. Her brother also has a sort of surgery/clinic where he treats those in need. One night when Laurel is home alone, a man is brought to her in the grips of a fever. He has been beaten and robbed in his weakened state and then left in the street. To Laurel’s shock, it is her estranged husband.
She knows how to treat his malarial fevers and gives the required care to nurse him back to health. However a moment of weakness with the man she can’t deny she still has feelings for has long-lasting consequences and Lord Kirkland has decided it’s time his wayward Countess came home. There’s no doubt he wants a proper reconciliation but in order for that to happen, Laurel is going to have to be able to come to terms with the darker side of her husband’s nature.
I didn’t realise this was part of a series when I requested it and you get quite a way through the book before it becomes obvious. The series centers around a group of men who were all sent to the same school, who became friends. Some are titled, some aren’t. Several have been part of the wars, spying on the French, or were captured. Despite coming in at the sixth book, I really enjoyed meeting all of Lord Kirkland’s friends and would love to go back and read some of their stories to see how they got their happy ever after’s. Without having read the other novels I can’t say for sure how strong this one is compared to them but on it’s own it does work relatively well.
Laurel met James when her brother brought him home. Her social-climber parents encouraged the rapid match due to James’s wealth and titled and they were married very swiftly. Laurel had no idea that her husband was actually a spy (for England during the Napoleonic wars) and she wasn’t able to reconcile with this part of him, especially when she saw him react as as one when a stranger entered their home. She ends up basically fleeing without giving him the chance to properly explain himself. I know Laurel was very young when this occurred and she’d probably had a sheltered upbringing as befitted all ladies of breeding, etc at the time but honestly, if James didn’t react that way, it’s quite possible she could’ve been killed herself. Her views seemed a bit rigid and naive – to totally sever the marriage without a backward glance or giving him a chance to explain didn’t strike me as the most intelligent reaction. She does have an abhorrence of violence but I think she seems to view violence as very black and white and it isn’t until she’s forced to defend and protect some beaten down, weaker people in danger that I think she begins to understand that in the right circumstances, anyone can be driven to violence. That doesn’t mean that she copes well with it either and I must admit, her emotional overload got a little tedious at times.
Much more interesting was the subplot, revolving around a slave girl taken from Jamaica and brought to England. Laurel rescues her with the help of some local men and takes the girl into her own service when she returns to London withe James. In doing this, Laurel has aroused the ire of the captain of the trade ship that bought the girl for his own personal use and he seeks to hunt both of them down to get his revenge. I quite enjoyed this and the way in which Lord Kirkland and his friends all band together when Laurel and her maid are in danger. The camaraderie between them all was entertaining and I liked the relationship between their wives too, which was not without it’s own mysteries.
All in all this was a pretty good read although I do think it took a little too long to go through James and Laurel’s history and get them to the point where she joins him in London to make a go of their marriage. I’d have liked to see more about that, more about them getting to know the people that they are now, ten years into the future. I would like to go back and read the other novels though, so might look and see if they’re available.
Book #167 of 2014