She would never bow to any man…
Trevor Bailey is on the cusp of opening the greatest hotel in London. His days as a guttersnipe are behind him, as he enjoys a life of wealth, society, and clandestine assignments as a spy in the service of the Crown. Until one tumultuous night churns up the past he’d long left behind…
Turned out by her employer for her radical beliefs, Lucy Greenleaf reaches out to the man who was once her most beloved friend. She never expected that the once-mischievous Trevor would be so handsome and gentleman-like and neither can deny the instant attraction.
But Lucy’s reformer ways pose a threat to the hotel’s future and his duties as a spy. Now Trevor must choose between his new life and the woman he’s always loved…
I read and enjoyed the first book in Jenny Holiday’s Regency Reformers series, The Miss Mirren Mission, and was keen to read more of her work. She’s written a number of contemporary romances, but these are her first forays into the historical genre, and I’ve found both to be well-written and enjoyable, in spite of some small inconsistencies and niggles. Although this is the second book and the principals from book one appear in it, I don’t think it’s necessary to have read The Miss Mirren Mission in order to be able to appreciate and understand The Likelihood of Lucy.
When Lucy Greenleaf is forced to flee her lecherous employer, she runs to the one person she thinks will be in a position to help her, her childhood friend, Trevor Bailey, a wealthy businessman. As children, they had been inseparable, eeking out a precarious existence in Seven Dials, one of the worst areas of London, scamming and stealing just to fill their bellies. Trevor always felt responsible for Lucy and was determined that if ever an opportunity presented itself, he would make sure she escaped to a better life. That time came when she was eleven, and the pair haven’t seen each other since.
Trevor Bailey may be wealthy, but he has never really left behind the idea of himself as a guttersnipe from the slums. He joined the army and saw active service in the Napoleonic Wars, and also undertook covert missions for the British government, which is where he met the Earl of Blackstone, with whom he still maintains a friendship, and for whom he still undertakes the odd mission.
One of his many business ventures is the opening of a luxury hotel in London, a project which holds much personal significance for him. Lucy has read of this in the news-sheets, and makes her way there, hoping he will help her for old times’ sake. He is stunned to see Lucy so unexpectedly and in such a state, but he takes her in and the two quickly rekindle their friendship. But there’s an undercurrent of something else between them now, an awareness of each other in a way that wasn’t there before which they both find unsettling. I’m a big fan of the friends-to-lovers trope, so this aspect of the romance was one I particularly enjoyed; and the author makes the most of the sexual tension that results from the fact that these two people who haven’t seen each other for years suddenly discover that their old, ragamuffin mate is gorgeous and that they’re attracted to one another.
Trevor offers Lucy a temporary respite at the hotel and offers to help her find a new position as a governess, if that is what she wants. Her previous employer – a viscount – was incensed when he discovered that she was teaching his daughters according to the precepts of the infamous Mary Wollenstonecraft, who is Lucy’s idol. Despite his ignominious treatment of her, she is undaunted in her determination to pursue Mary’s goals and to bring her message of female equality to as many women as possible.
Lucy doesn’t want to be a governess, but she has to earn a living and has no other options. When he realises this, Trevor offers her another post – that of manager of his new hotel, which is due to open within weeks. Lucy has very quickly made herself incredibly useful, dealing with correspondence, appointing staff and working on the accounts, and Trevor knows he needs someone like her, someone with a head for the day-to-day to make the venture a success. Lucy agrees to take the job for six months, knowing that having a woman as manager will be difficult for the male investors in the project to accept. She has quickly come to see that the hotel is more than just another business for Trevor – it’s a project that’s very close to his heart, and she doesn’t want to do anything that could cause it to fail.
But that’s not her only reason for only wanting to stay for six months. Her deepening attraction to her old friend is difficult for her to reconcile with her desire for an independent life and she knows that the longer she stays with him, the harder it will be when she eventually has to leave.
I enjoyed reading The Likelihood of Lucy, although there are a number of minor issues that prevent me rating it more highly. The writing itself is solid, and the romance between Lucy and Trevor is nicely done; their longing for each other leaps off the page and there are some beautifully tender moments between them. Both are likeable characters, but the author’s method of keeping them from pursuing their mutual attraction is rather weak. Trevor still thinks of himself as a kid from the slums, and spends most of the book telling himself that he’s not good enough for Lucy – yet she grew up in the slums, too, and, like him, has made good despite her humble background. And Lucy tells herself that love isn’t for her because Mary Wollenstonecraft was driven to madness by love and she doesn’t want to marry because she doesn’t want to cede control of her life to a man. While I can certainly appreciate her stance and her desire for more independence, her reformist tendencies are presented in such a way as to make Lucy seem rather naïve, and her continual evoking of “what would Mary do?” becomes a little tiresome.
Taking those reservations into account, I can, however, give The Likelihood of Lucy a qualified recommendation, because it held my interest and proved to be an engaging read overall.