Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Her Ladyship's Companion

In the Scottish countryside of Selkirk, Lady Isabella Stirling resides at Bowhill Park, serving penance for a sin that nearly ruined her family. For five years she has been condemned to a loveless marriage and confined to the estate where she does little more than tend her rose garden. With her husband absent for months at a time and few visitors, Bella lives a lonely existence, denying the passions that burn within her very soul - passions that need release.

Then her worldly cousin comes for a visit and makes an outrageous suggestion: what Bella needs is a lover. A hired lover. After all, men engage in such activities; why shouldn't women?  Despite her need, Bella says no. But soon a new visitor arrives at Bowhill Park.  Mr. Gideon Rosedale is gorgeous.  And he is at her service for two weeks. Indulging in what she intends to be a harmless flirtation, Bella finds herself overcome by Gideon's intoxicating presence. And when she at last permits him to satisfy her desire, she discovers she's done the unthinkable -  the one thing forbidden:  She's fallen in love...

What a stunning debut!  I could not put this book down!

Sabrina Jeffries' quote on the back cover said it perfect... "Once you enter the sensual world of Her Ladyship's Companion, you'll never want to leave."  And she was so right.

This book is more sensual than the romances I normally read, but the back cover blurb had me intrigued because the scenario just sounded interesting.  I mean, my first thought of someone falling in love with a male prostitute is EEIIIWWWW, but reading about some of these rakes in other books... really is it much different?  Therefore, I was intrigued and wanted to see how this story would unfold.  I picked up this book, challenging the author to impress me and make me believe this story could happen.  She succeeded.

The prologue of this book starts off with the incident (referenced on the back cover) that almost brings the family to ruin in Lady Isabella's brother's eyes.  He's the Earl of Mayburn after all, so it's his job to see that scandal is kept at bay while struggling to keep the family afloat financially.  After the incident, he marries Isabella off to a Lord Stirling, then we fast-forward five years.

Lady Isabella is in a loveless marriage, living at Bowhill Park in the Scottish countryside.  She's pretty much been cast off by her husband to live a quiet life since he rarely visits and stays only a few days when he does.  This leaves Isabella with nothing better to do than tend to her roses and embroidery and enjoy the occasional letter from one of her sisters since the rest of her family has essentially written her off.  She also looks forward to visits from her cousin Esme.  But during her most recent visit, Esme senses Isabella's loneliness and suggests she consider taking a lover... someone who can lift her spirits and be at her service, whatever her desires may be.  Pondering the idea, Isabella thanks her cousin, but refuses.  But next thing she knows, she receives a letter from Esme telling her to expect a Mr. Gideon Rosedale.  Under the guise of a visiting cousin, he will serve as companion to Isabella for a fortnight.  Esme made the arrangements.  The rest is up to Isabella.

Enter Gideon Rosedale, a prostitute on an assignment. He's handsome, charming, and he's there for one purpose:  her pleasure.  Isabella is reluctant at first.  After all, she knows that Gideon has been paid to be there with her.  So at first the pleasures are simple... meals together, walks in the garden, the whole 'getting to know you' part.  But Gideon, being the skilled and rehearsed lover, doesn't reveal much about himself.  Instead, his focus is her... learning about her, learning about her desires.  And as Gideon begins to warm things up, Isabella slowly begins to give in to his attentions.   

But Gideon is intrigued by Isabella.  She's so different from his other clients and he can't quite figure her out.  Isabella is beautiful, polite... a true lady.  Why would she ever need to pay for companionship?  As the days pass, we see layers of loneliness peel back, revealing a spring in Isabella's step and a growing confidence allowing herself to enjoy the attention and pleasure that has so long been denied.  But while Gideon prides himself on keeping all his rendezvous from reaching a personal level emotionally, Isabella is proving to be a bit of a challenge.  Suddenly his practiced compliments and maneuvers are becoming more genuine... not just an act to please her and make her feel worthy.

Now, Gideon is our Beta Male here.  For me, that made him a breath of fresh air, but given the status of his position in society, it did make his character a bit weaker than the typical Beta.  I was intrigued too when I realized Isabella's two brothers possessed the same traits.  Really, no one ever stood up for Isabella until Gideon came along.  Her brothers even left her in Gideon's protection when business in London required their attention.  What the heck kind of  brother is that?  Their trust in Gideon was admirable, but given everything Isabella had endured already and what was most likely to come, it was just kinda weird that they would abandon her.   

My only other gripe, and really its a small one, was the overuse of dialogue that trailed off with a "..."  For me, this got rather tedious and made my mind wander away from the story, asking myself do these people not know how to finish a complete sentence?  It wasn't as if other characters were interrupting each other either.  They were simply statements that trailed off leaving the reader to complete them and in my opinion, there were too many of these instances.  But much was forgiven when I saw there was indeed an epilogue.  YAY!  It was short and sweet and left you wishing there was more, but definitely a nice close to this splendid story. 

Evangeline Collins has penned a fantastic debut in Her Ladyship's Companion and I highly recommed this book to Regency lovers who enjoy a bit more steam with their stories.  I eagerly await her November release of Seven Nights to Forever.  Both of Ms. Collins books appear to be stand-alone novels.

My rating:  9 - Loved it!

No series here, but these are the author's two releases...


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