January 2008, Series Romance
Harl Romance #4007, $3.99, 184 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373174977
There are some series romance titles that clearly lure some readers...and send me running in the opposite direction. Take, for example, anything that includes the words "sheikh" or "cowboy." On the other hand we have a title like English Lord, Ordinary Lady. I took one look and thought, "Count me in." Happily, the book was every bit as good as the title suggested.
Josie has worked hard to build an independent life for herself and her young daughter. Growing up under the watchful eye of her aristocratic mother, she craved freedom and grasped every chance to rebel. Single parenthood grounded her, but her brilliant pink hair and eccentric wardrobe still telegraph her independence to the world. Nonetheless, she lives rather quietly, managing a tearoom in her godfather's old manor, Elmhurst Hall. When her godfather dies, she fears that her life could change. The new lord is from a little known, almost forgotten branch of the family, and he could threaten everything she holds dear.
Almost as much as Josie values independence, Will Radcliffe values duty and "fitting in." His grandparents were the family scandal, and now that he's the new Lord Radcliffe, he wants to do things right. He hardly knows what to think of Josie. When he first meets her, he thinks she is wearing a pink hat with tassels; he's pretty shocked when he realizes it's her hair. However, once he gets to know her, he comes to appreciate her hard work and talent. The tearoom is the only profitable part of the old estate, and he knows that Josie deserves credit for that. He decides to liquidate other assets so he can restore Elmhurst Hall to its former glory, making renovations to the tearoom his first priority.
Naturally, Josie and Will are immediately attracted to each other, and each is sure that the other is entirely wrong as a potential partner. Josie has spent her entire life running from people like Will. Why would she want some controlling, prim and proper guy in her life? Will, on the other hand, knows that he needs to marry someone respectable. The ideal partner will enhance his family and prove to his stuffy relatives that he really is the right man to uphold the family name. But both of them have trouble fighting their attraction. As Josie gets to know Will, she learns that he can be supportive and more open-minded than she originally thought. She also comes to appreciate the bond he shares with her daughter Hattie. Will undergoes a similar process and decides that a woman with pink hair may just be the one for him. Who cares what stuffy family members think anyway?
This is a series romance with less than 200 pages, so obviously it can't get too deep. For the most part, that doesn't matter; as a light and cute love story, it succeeds admirably. Even though I've never had the desire for pink hair, I found Josie nearly irresistible. She is perhaps a little stubborn at times, but it fits with her character, and she really grows during the course of the book. She's also just plain fun. By far my favorite scene was when Will decided that the tearoom staff ought to wear uniforms, and Josie "alters" hers to suit her personality. This paragraph made me laugh out loud:
"Customisation. What a beautiful word, thought Josie as the blades of her scissors sliced through the grey fabric. She said it twice more in her head then once out loud, just for good measure. It just rolled off the tongue."
I shared it with my daughter, who asked if she could read the book next.
Naturally, nothing suits a rebellious heroine like a stuffy hero who needs to get a little less stuffy. Will is the perfect foil for Josie, and his actions at the end of the book – when he proves his love in a most unexpected way – seal the deal.
The only issue I had was that the story (and the relationship) felt a little rushed. That pretty much comes with the territory when you're reading a series romance, but I couldn't help wishing things had slowed down just a tiny bit. That said, it's cute as can be. English Lord, Ordinary Lady is a nearly ideal book to read on a dreary winter evening.
-- Blythe Barnhill
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