As the Earl of Ashby, Lord Edward Granville has never been in short supply of luck, earning him the nickname “Lucky Ned.” Why should he not take risks most sensible men would run from, since the tide always turns in his favor? Making a wager that he can have any woman he desires even without his title, Ned switches places with John Turner, his friend and secretary. But once he does, Ned’s luck suddenly abandons him, for the ladies now have eyes only for Turner. When Ned meets governess Phoebe Baker, he becomes intent on gaining her affections.
Phoebe wants nothing more than to keep her head down, teach her students, and go unnoticed–especially by the Earl of Ashby. But his rakish secretary has the infuriating habit of constantly crossing her path. Yet Phoebe cannot deny that her pulse quickens in Ned’s presence. If this prim-and-proper governess lets her heart rule, will fate intervene where Ned’s luck has forsaken him?
Rating: B for narration; B for content
The Game and the Governess is a very strong start to Kate Noble’s new series, wherein she takes a seemingly trite plot and turns it into a compelling story which is by turns funny, charming and poignant.
The story opens upon Miss Phoebe Baker on her final day at the exclusive school where she has been a pupil for the last few years. Her father’s fortune has been lost in an ill-advised business deal, and his demise followed shortly afterwards, leaving Phoebe unprovided for. A friendly schoolmistress has helped her to find a position as a governess, and Phoebe must learn to adapt to her reduced circumstances and her new situation as neither master nor servant.
Edward Granville, Earl of Ashby – known as “Lucky Ned” – was plucked from obscurity at the age of twelve, having been discovered to be the sole heir to an earldom. He really does seem to have everything – wealth, good looks, and an inordinate amount of good luck whether it be with women, cards, or anything else. Given the ease with which everything he wants falls into his lap, he’s sure it’s due to his luck and has nothing to do with the fact that he’s an earl. With the carefree self-absorption of youth, he is quite happy to leave the management of his affairs and estates to John Turner, his friend-turned-secretary, who, we discover, left his own business concerns in order to help Ned out of a tight spot some five years previously.
Their friendship began during the war, when Ned, then a raw recruit, joined Captain Turner’s regiment; they have remained friends, although from some of Turner’s dryly ironic comments, it’s clear that their friendship has become somewhat strained of late. Eventually unable to listen to any more of Ned’s paeans to his incredible luck, Turner snaps and points out that it’s Ned’s money and title that ensures him plenty of female attention, good seats at the opera, and whatever else he wants. Ned doesn’t believe him, and the pair makes a wager which leads to them switching places during a business trip into the country. Turner bets Ned that he won’t be able to woo a woman without benefit of his title and all its trappings – in the guise of a humble secretary, for instance – and Ned is instantly determined to prove him wrong.
Of course, something like this is immediately headed for disaster, not least because we’ve already learned that Phoebe holds the Earl of Ashby responsible for her father’s ruin. But Ms Noble’s writing is so engaging and her characterisation so strong, that the rather clichéd nature of the plot was a minor consideration and I was quickly hooked and keen to listen to the story unfold.
Unusually for a romance these days, the hero and heroine don’t really start interacting until the second quarter of the story, but I didn’t feel that as a deficiency as it allows the author time to establish her characters and to have a little fun at Ned’s expense.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance