Nearly a Lady by Alissa Johnson
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Nearly a Lady is beautiful in its simplicity as a historical romance. It's about two people getting to know each other and falling in love. There is no need for madcap adventures, a cruel villain, an extraneous mystery plot, chandelier-swinging sex scenes, or convoluted excuses for the couple to spend time together. Instead, this story is organic in its development. And I appreciated that. The characters are those who you might have seen before in Regency romance, but they seem more authentic here, stripped of their pretensions, and more like real people.
Winnefred has issues with her self-worth, and who could blame her? With a father who barely noticed her (shoving her off on governesses who had no idea what to do with her), and a long-dead mother. Her father asked his friend to watch out for her as an afterthought on his deathbed. This friend wasn't exactly thrilled to be saddled with the care of a young girl, but felt honor-bound to keep his promise. He too banished her out of his mind to far away Scotland, and through his inattention, allowed his wife to cheat Winnefred out of most of her allowance so that she only had five pounds a year to live off of. So it's understandable that she isn't predisposed to trust Gideon, her erstwhile guardian's son, when he shows up at Murdoch House, claiming to be there for her assistance. However, Gideon shows how tried and true he is, that he's worthy of her trust, her friendship, and her heart.
Gideon is not without issues. In a way, his issues are probably more damaging. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after a tragic battle on the ship which he captained in the Royal Navy. He lost several members of his crew, and takes personal responsibility for their deaths. To the degree that he deeply fears being responsible for anyone. His plan is to escort Winnefred and her companion, Lily, to London, see them taken care of until his brother, the Marquess of Engsly returns, and to go on to his relatively responsibility-free life. He doesn't expect this refreshingly genuine and unpretentious young woman to carve a place in his heart and his life. He doesn't want the responsibility of a wife, but soon he can't imagine life without Winnefred in it, to stay.
I can see why this book is highly rated. The writing is very good, and the relationship between Winnefred and Gideon is so rich and honest, infectiously so. You can see their love blossom as they go from strangers to friends, and fall in love before the journey is over. And on that path to love, they struggle with each other's emotional walls in a way that resonated with me. I found their emotional journey very enjoyable to read about.
Nearly a Lady is a book for readers who want something real, with a bond between the couple that is deep and emotional; for readers looking for the opportunity to see that love relationship grow from a tiny seed to a rich, full bloom over the course of the novel. I would recommend this to historical romance readers jaded with all the shenanigans and devices that can often be overused in the genre. It's easy to get tired of the 'same old thing' because it doesn't deliver, and forget why you read a genre in the first place. When it comes to romance, the joy is watching the process of a couple falling in love, and the wonderful little moments along that path. This book delivers that joy.
Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars
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