The Gamekeeper's Lady
Harlequin Historical, April 19, 2011, $5.99
Frederica Bracewell grew up under a cloud of shame. As an illegitimate child, she was treated by her uncle like a servant. It isn't until she encounters the new gamekeeper that shy, innocent Frederica starts to feel like a true lady...
Lord Robert Mountford has been banished by his family. After a debauched existence, he revels in the simplicity of a gamekeeper's lifestyle. Until temptation strikes! Frederica's plain appearance and stuttering speech are a far cry from the ladies of the ton, but she may just be his undoing...and unmasking!
The Gamekeeper's Lady is a traditional Regency Romance with a black sheep, and virgin heroine, but with a lovely touch of historical feminism. Much of the heroine’s journey is working to overcome social barriers to become a respected artist.
Ms. Lethbridge has created two wonderfully flawed characters, and whilst they are among the crème de le crème of ton society, each stand out, not for their fair appearance, but rather their honesty, honor, and individuality.
Frederica, our heroine/black sheep is an artist, who has an endearing stutter, and draws with her left hand—a mark of the devil, she is told her entire life. In a world where women are viewed as money-hungry husband-hunters with only one goal in life: to wed, Frederica desires only the freedom to be treated with dignity, and draw to her heart's content.
Robert, the second son, and twin, of a duke, lives a careless life of debauchery, driven to the underside of society by his father’s scorn. Yet even at play, he has honor, especially with his paramours. But when the people he embraces abandon him, he makes for the country with only his wit, charm, and love of the land, taking on the disguise as a gamekeeper.
As assistant gamekeeper, Robert’s job is to track foxes for his lord’s sport. Yet when he discovers Frederica’s love of drawing, he cannot resist the joy it will bring her to capture the fox’s image.
He is taken aback, however, when Frederica asks him to pose for a portrait; naked.
'Will you sit for me?'
'What?' His voice was deep … very dark and laced with danger.
She started to turn. She heard him move across the room. Away from her.
She huffed out a breath. 'I’ve always wanted to draw a person. In the flesh. I came to ask you if you would sit as a model.'
It wasn’t just about drawing. It was him.
'Do you have any idea what people would say if they found you drawing me naked?' he asked.
Well, that wasn’t a no, was it? 'I-I don’t care what they say. I want to be an artist … go to Italy. Take lessons from a master.'
This is what makes Frederica so different from the rest of the flock: her need to be who she is, and not what she’s told to be. To overcome the barrier of her sex and become a respected and successful artist.
What an easy life she would have if she simply did as her family wanted, acted the lady and found a good husband. But she couldn’t. She stayed true to herself, to her dream of being an artist, even at the risk of ostracizing herself from the rest of society, and the man she comes to love.
He raised a quizzical brow and sat down on the bed.
Was he laughing at her? His face was perfectly serious, but there was that slight curl to his mouth. If she could see his eyes, she would know, but they were in shadow. She moved closer, clasping her hands. 'I know it sounds strange. I know women artists aren’t thought well on here, but on the Continent there are several who are famous. I just want to know if I have that talent. Drawing the human body from life is the greatest test. You have a perfect male body. You make a perfect make subject.'
His expression … was unfathomable. 'Does it mean so much to you that you’d risk your reputation?'
She wanted to capture him as she saw him, glorious, beautiful, dangerous. A brooding Greek god.
Stretching to his full height, the curves of his biceps carved deeper by shadow … the lantern (hung) from a nail on the beam above his head.
'Now take the qu-quilt off and stretch out.'
'Your wish is my command.' It was a bit like watching the unveiling of a masterpiece.
On its face, The Gamekeeper's Lady is a traditional Harlequin Regency Romance, yet with a woman who is unwilling to let her dreams go, unwilling to wed where she is told, Frederica is the quintessential feminist in a society that balks at the very notion.
A.J. Wilson, Shark By Day, Lover Of All Things Plaid By Night