Lady Madelaine Aldridge might be the worst lady-in-waiting to ever grace King George III’s court. An oddball who prefers archery to embroidery and honesty to deception, she earns the dislike of the Queen, the cruelty of the other ladies-in-waiting and the advances of a lecherous fiend who wants to make her his whore. Her father demands she find a proper husband? A task that seems hopeless until Lord Grey Adlard rides into court.
Grey Adlard lives up to his reputation as a dangerously handsome rake when he proposes Madelaine meet him in the stables for a tumble. Yet when she needs a protector the most, Grey offers his services and vows he wants to court her. Wary yet intrigued by the mystery he presents, Madelaine slowly allows Grey to capture her confidence and then her heart.
Things seem perfect until her father is imprisoned for plotting against the King and Madelaine learns Grey is not who he pretends. As King George III sinks deeper into insanity, Madelaine must prove her father’s innocence in order to save his life. With the future of England hanging in the balance and a ruthless murderer hunting them Grey and Madelaine engage in a clash of wills and a battle fraught with suspicion, secrets, betrayal and two hearts that cannot deny the impossible, irresistible love between them.
Rating: C- for narration, C for content
Lady Madelaine Aldridge is a Lady in Waiting to Queen Charlotte, but doesn’t quite fit in at Court and is frequently the subject of cruel remarks from the other ladies of the queen’s retinue. She doesn’t possess any of the usual female “accomplishments”, preferring archery to embroidery and riding to singing or painting, and has little patience with the pretense and deceit continually practiced by those around her. She is not happy in her position – the queen dislikes her intensely because of an old feud with Madelaine’s late mother – but she bears it as best she can because she wants to please her father, who has sent her to Court in order for her to learn to be a “proper lady” and find herself a husband.
Lord Grey Adlard (Grey doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of name that would have been found in Georgian England, I must say!) arrives at Court to take up the position of equerry to Lord Pearson. He is immediately attracted to Madelaine, and believes she’s probably like so many other court ladies and will be up for a quick tumble in the stables. He’s a rake of the first order, a lifestyle he’s pursued most diligently in order to annoy his father, who has never had time or affection for his second son. Grey’s determination to seduce Madeleine naturally sees him spending more and more time in her company, and as they get to know each other, he is stunned to realise that he wants more from her than some short-lived, illicit liaison, and determines to win her honourably.
Things between them are going well, until Grey discovers the real reason he has been summoned to Court. Shortly after that, Madelaine’s father is arrested for treason and imprisoned in the Tower, and Grey is instructed to use his relationship with her to discover all he can about the plot against the king. Madelaine protests her father’s innocence, and while Grey can’t believe that the woman he loves can have had any part in her father’s treachery, her determination to exonerate her father leads her to make a poor decision which brings her into conflict with Grey and puts both their lives in danger.
The story is decently told and reasonably engaging, although I felt it could have done with some judicious editing as there are numerous repetitions which interrupt the flow. For example, Madelaine often mopes that such a gorgeous specimen as Lord Grey can’t possibly be interested in a girl like her – and just as often expresses her astonishment that he likes her in spite of her oddness, and perhaps because of it. There is occasionally some terribly creaky dialogue, and the plot, while decently constructed and executed, is fairly predictable. But on the positive side, the author takes the time to fill the listener in on Madelaine’s life at Court, and allows time for the romance to develop rather than relying on the insta-lust that seems to be a feature of so many romances at the moment.
I had a hard time grading Tim Campbell’s narration. In fact, I wish I could be like one of the Olympic judges in the gymnastics who gets to hold up two score cards – one with a mark for artistic merit and the other with a mark for technical ability! If I did, I’d be giving this performance something like an 8 for the former and a 3 or 4 for the latter, because this would have been a highly graded narration were it not for one massive technical flaw.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.