The Reluctant Governess (Ladies Unlaced #3)
Intermix / August 19, 2014 / $4.99 digital
A secretary for the renowned Evensong Agency, Eliza Lawrence may have a pretty face, but she’s much prouder of her mind and her morals. When she’s pressed into temporary governess duty as a favor to her boss, she doesn’t expect to bend one bit for the rakish Nicholas Raeburn. Not even when he opens the door to her half-dressed...
Despite his bad reputation, Nicholas is a man of honor. To Nick’s way of thinking, he doesn’t need any help raising his daughter, Domenica. If only he weren’t so drawn to the meddlesome woman’s sparkling wit and uncommon beauty...
But when an act of misplaced chivalry goes seriously awry, resulting in mayhem and almost murder, Eliza becomes the only woman he can depend upon. Nick will do anything to protect his family, but who will protect him from falling in love with his reluctant governess?
The Reluctant Governess is the third in Maggie Robinson's Ladies Unlaced Series. I heartily recommend them all. In this one, our heroine is Eliza Lawrence, newly hired as a secretary for the Evensong Agency, which is the locus of all the Ladies Unlaced books. When Nicholas Raeburn, an artist with an “artistic” reputation, and brother of the hero of the preceding book, In the Heart of the Highlander, returns to England in need of a governess for the daughter of his late mistress, whom he assumes is also his, Eliza takes the job until the agency can find a permanent one.
Naturally, all does not go as planned. When Eliza arrives, Nicholas answers the door covered in paint and very little else other than his pajama bottoms.
The door opened, and so did Eliza's mouth. The man before her was no butler. For one thing, he appeared to be wearing paint-stained silk pajama bottoms, something no self-respecting butler would wear, even to sleep in. And nothing else.
His hair was auburn, curly, and disheveled. He had not shaved lately, although she wouldn't call what he sported a full-fledged beard. She gripped the railing as she noted the golden ring pierced through one ear, and the tongue of a serpent licking its own tail around his left bicep.
Eliza's introduction to Nicholas sets the tone for the rest of the book: the straightlaced governess and the bohemian artist. The vivid description of this introduction also sets the pattern for the way in which the story is told. Nicholas is an artist and the description throughout the book is colored by this fact.
Nick and Eliza, naturally, get off on the wrong foot. She immediately disapproves of his habits and conduct, he immediately disapproves of her disapproval. And yet, even as he does, his painterly instinct takes over.
She sat there, her cheeks flaming. Nay, flaming was not the right word. The blush flowed over her face like a pink watercolor wash. Nick preferred to work in oils, but Miss Lawrence's looks cried out for pastels, as he'd thought before, or watercolors, where the intensity could be adjusted. Muted. Yet even with her pale English-rose beauty, she was surprisingly attractive to him. As long as he didn't have to listen to her.
Their first kiss, which occurs as Eliza is trying to keep Nick awake following a concussion, is followed by a fight, which is followed by Nick's consideration of eye color.
“Oh come. This is not a West End melodrama with you as the wronged woman.” He shrugged and heard ominous cracking in his neck. “We kissed, that's all. You apologized in your fashion. I accepted. Case closed, Run along now. I'll try not to sleep until midnight. After that, I can make no promises.”
“I don't care if you fall asleep and lapse into an irreversible coma!” Her eyes had turned the color of the Mediterranean. Interesting. Eye colors were always changing in the bad novels he read—perhaps it was possible after all.
Nick's growing attraction to Eliza is cataloged in his artistic perceptions. He begins by comparing her to the women he always fell in love with, characterized by his late mistress.
Anyway, if he fell in love with women who looked like Barbara, he could have no possible interest in her. That woman was all dark mystery, chased rose-gold and ruby. Richest chocolate. Eliza was smooth white enamel by comparison. Vanilla.
But after they first make love, all that changes, as does his description:
“You are so beautifully made—plumb ivory thighs, golden curls, a perfect pink pussy.”
Ultimately, of course, the infatuation turns to love and the love is returned. The image becomes softer, more emotional:
The sweet curve of her hip and rounded bottom rivaled any classical painting he'd ever seen. And when she pivoted to face him, he lost his breath. Her breasts were plump and high, her nipples peaked. Nick realized that she was much more finely made than the blowsy portrait he he'd worked on just this morning. She raised her arms and removed a pin that anchored the classical coronet on her head. She could have gone to a fancy dress party tonight as a Jane Austen heroine...
As Nick hesitates, taking in her beauty and deciding what to do about it, Eliza has her say.
“Either say something about my glorious nudity, or start taking off your clothes. I feel silly just standing here.”
Although this first look is about the gaze of the artist and how it informs the description and the changes in the relationship between the hero and heroine, there is much more to this novel: the growth of both characters, the really delightful secondary characters, the humor and, oh yes. a plot.
Learn more about or order a copy of The Reluctant Governess by Maggie Robinson, available August 19, 2014:
Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website,www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.