Lady Corinna Mowbray has three passions: excellent books, intelligent conversation, and disdaining the libertine Earl of Chance.
Lord Ian Chance has three pleasures: beautiful women, fast horses, and tormenting high-and-mighty Corinna Mowbray.
Neighbors for years, they’ve been at each other’s throats since they can remember. But when a twist of fate forces them to trade lives, how long will it be before they discover they cannot live without each other?
I have to start this review by saying that, enjoyable though this book is, it’s definitely not one for you if you insist upon a certain amount of realism or historical accuracy in your reading. The story is, in essence, an enemies-to-lovers one, but the plot device Ms. Ashe has chosen to use in order to bring the hero and heroine to a closer understanding of each other is something I’ve never read in an historical romance before and which has its roots firmly in the 20th, rather than the 19th century.
Lady Corinna Mowbray and Lord Ian Chance have known each other since childhood, and have, as it appears at the beginning of the book, detested each other for just as long. Ian is handsome, wealthy, and, Corinna believes, dissolute, indolent, and unintelligent. Her pet name for him appears to be “cretin” and whenever they meet – which is rarely, despite their being near neighbours – she finds herself unable to resist responding to his gibes in the most cutting manner possible.
Ian thinks Corinna is starchy, snobbish, and incapable of feeling emotions other than scorn and pride. Their verbal sparring is most definitely not of the “I’m going to flirt with you by insulting you until you wise up and take me to bed” variety. Well, Ian tries to take that approach, but Corinna is usually so caustic that he feels compelled to respond in kind and their exchanges quickly degenerate into slanging matches, even though she knows it does not become her, as a lady, to descend to Ian’s level.
Corinna is a model of propriety, a woman of unimpeachable virtue and restraint, and a renowned bluestocking; a twenty-nine year-old spinster who is surprisingly comfortable with that fact. She is attractive and has had her fair share of male attention and proposals, but her energies are reserved for her weekly salons, events which are attended by the foremost scientists, artists and politicians of the day, and which are the envy of many other society hostesses.
But a surprising, unexpected and fantastical event occurs which causes Ian and Corinna to begin to reassess their opinions of each other. This event takes place quite early on in the book, but I’m not going to reveal it here. Suffice to say that a little bit of the supernatural takes an interest in our antagonistic not-couple, and while at first, it may seem completely bonkers, it turns out to be a superb way to enable each character to truly get beneath the other’s skin and into each other’s heads, and to see life from the other’s perspective.
As the story progresses, not only do we see our two protagonists reach a détente and a new understanding of each other, we get a few glimpses of their past encounters, which serve to throw some light on key moments in their relationship and show us just why they hold each other in such dislike. These little flashbacks are particularly illuminating when it comes to Ian’s character, as he inherited his title when he was quite young from a father whose reputation as a gambler and a cheat had seem him ostracised from polite society.
Corinna learns how hard Ian has worked – and continues to work – running his estates and looking after his mother and siblings and how he has never completely been able to erase society’s casual belief that “like father, like son”, he is an apple not fallen far from the tree. She comes to learn that Ian is far from the cretin she has labelled him and that he is an honourable man, one whose friends think highly of him and who is himself a very good friend to others, one who has all but brought up his younger brother and made an excellent job of it.
Ian’s eyes are opened, too, to how restrictive life is for a young woman of Corinna’s ilk and how limited her options really are. He sees how respected she is by those around her, but also learns how frustrating it is for a woman of intelligence to be casually dismissed on account of her sex. He also realises how many of his normal leisure pursuits – drinking with his friends, gambling – must appear to her, and begins to see, himself, that perhaps they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
The storytelling is excellent throughout, but I did have a couple of minor issues with the book overall. Firstly, there was a fair smattering of Americanisms throughout, the most prominent of which was the use of “sidewalk” instead of “pavement”. I know this is something I bang on about at frequent intervals, but it happens so often that sometimes I lose patience with it. I can’t understand why anyone setting an historical novel in England would not use English terminology – it seems only polite, after all. The other thing is the fact that Ms Ashe consistently used incorrect forms of address for her male characters. The hero is the Earl of Chance. Yet he is also called “Ian Chance”. I suppose it’s conceivable that he would have the same last name as his earldom, but usually, the two are different, so Ian should, rightly, be “Ian Chance, Earl of Somewhere”, or “Ian LastName, Earl of Chance”. The same is true of Ian’s friends, the Marquess of Drake and Lord Grace. Drake is frequently referred to as “Marquess Drake”, when the correct appellation is either “Lord Drake” or “the Marquess of Drake”; and “Baron Grace” should be “Lord Grace”. I know many readers – on both sides of the Atlantic – who find such errors jarring, and it’s made worse by the fact that they’re completely unnecessary, because the information as to how titles work is freely available on the internet.
Those quibbles aside, the writing flows well, and the characterisations – of the principals and the main secondary characters, such as Ian’s brother Gregory and his friend, Lord Grace, are strong and consistent. Ms Ashe has written the relationship between the brothers very well, and their relationship and their exchanges feel very naturalistic. There is plenty of humour, and the sexual tension between the leads is delicious. I did think that the final section of the story was just a tad too strung out, but that’s a minor complaint.
My Lady, My Lord is a refreshingly different piece of fun which has its deeper moments as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.