The Lady’s Disgrace by Callie Hutton

ladys disgrace

A lady is nothing without her reputation. Jilted and humiliated by her once-betrothed, Lady Abigail Lacey is the laughingstock of London. Worse still, the humiliation is now reflecting badly on her family. Now her brother, the Duke of Manchester, is desperate… until he finds a way to rescue his sister’s damaged reputation, and remove her from the glare of disapproving society.

He must marry her off. Quickly.

When Rector Joseph Fox drops by the Lacey household, he certainly didn’t expect to leave as a man engaged to a long-time family friend! Yet while he never could have aspired to have her, Lady Abigail always ignited a forbidden longing in him. But Abigail has one condition—their marriage is to be void of passion or physical pleasures. Faced with a platonic marriage of convenience, Joseph is determined to embark on a sensuous adventure with only one goal: to seduce his new wife…

Rating: C-

The Lady’s Disgrace is a quick, undemanding but ultimately unsatisfying read that doesn’t even merit being described as “average”.

It’s not the worst book I’ve read recently; the writing is mostly decent, but the story is horribly clichéd and the characterisation is bland at best.

Lady Abigail Lacey has been ignominiously jilted by her fiancé and her reputation is in tatters. There is only one way to combat the gathering storm of scandal, which is to get her suitably married and out of London quickly and hope that the gossip will die down after a suitable interval so that it will not taint the prospects of her younger sisters. It seems odd today, but while a woman could cry off an engagement without too much trouble, if a man broke a betrothal, the assumption was that the woman was at fault, and her name would be dragged through the mud, and anyone unmarried female close to her would be tarred with the same brush.

Abigail’s brother is the Duke of Manchester, and while he loves his sister, he is fully aware of the implications and knows that he needs to get her settled. Fortunately, a solution very quickly presents itself in the form of the Reverend Joseph Fox, a close family friend who grew up with the Lacey family. He has nurtured a secret tendre for Abigail for years, but as the lowly son of a village rector is resigned to the fact that she is far above his touch.
Joseph has come to London with the intention of drumming up sponsors for the school he plans to open for the local children and, having called upon his old friend the duke, is stunned when he is offered Abigail’s hand in marriage as well as a sizeable marriage portion.

Abigail, who wants to get away from the fickleness of society and to do something useful, agrees to the idea, but with one stipulation. She’ll permit Joseph’s husbandly attentions until she’s pregnant, but after that, no more hanky-panky. He’s a bit put out, but acquiesces, hoping that perhaps she’ll change her mind after he’s shown her what she’ll be missing by banning him from the bed!

He doesn’t know that Abigail had a massive crush on him when she was younger, and that all she wants now is to live a purposeful life unencumbered by romantic entanglements. She loved her fiancé (or so she believes) and doesn’t want to fall in love again.

The couple arrives as Joseph’s rather more than comfortable country house, which he inherited from his grandmother (his grandfather was an earl), and despite a few initial misunderstandings, begin their married life contentedly. They mix with local society and with Joseph’s parishioners and Abigail is looking forward to teaching at the new school.
But it’s not long before Abigail has what turns out to be the first in a series of mysterious and potentially fatal accidents. And here’s where the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief is sorely tested, because no sooner has Abigail recovered from a bullet wound to the arm than she’s being burned, hit over the head, half-drowned … the list goes on. It’s like watching a Bruce Willis movie – he gets beaten up, shot at and blown up so many times, it’s a wonder he’s in any shape to take down the bad guys!

Fortunately for her, Joseph has his suspicions and hires someone to investigate. While all this is going on, and when Abigail isn’t shot, drowned, burned or otherwise injured, Joseph is happily shagging her senseless at every available opportunity.

The miscreant is a walking cliché whose identity is apparent immediately we meet them. The characterisation is weak and the story is insubstantial and overly melodramatic. The writing isn’t bad and Joseph is an attractive hero, if not an especially well-developed one. The same is true of Abigail, although her reasons for wanting to deny Joseph her bed are just silly. She agrees to sleep with him to get pregnant – so why not after? It’s a contrivance added in an attempt to create tension in the relationship, but it doesn’t work.

The Lady’s Disgrace is a quick read, but it lacks depth, and isn’t something I can recommend.

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