When Lady Elizabeth Wilde and her sisters are summoned once again to their chronically anxious father’s deathbed, she’s shocked to find that his worries are at last justified. He’s terribly ill, and Lizzie suspects poison. But when she seeks help from the Bow Street Runners, her request is answered by a rough-hewn rogue known only as Dysart. Though his irreverent charm by turns shocks and captivates her, a man of Dysart’s background is an altogether inappropriate choice for a duke’s daughter—isn’t he?
Although Dysart has his reasons to disdain polite society, the promise of supplemental income from a noble’s coffers is too tempting to deny. But if Dysart means to apprehend the culprit who poisoned the duke, he’ll need to avoid any and all distractions—like the delicious swish of Lady Elizabeth’s hips. Yet as the investigation begins to unearth secrets he’d rather remain hidden, Dysart must decide at a moment’s notice whether to hold Elizabeth at arm’s length . . . or pull her dangerously close.
Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, April 2016
Time and Setting: 1822, Suffolk and London, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Lady Wesley
The Duke of Sherrington is a valetudinarian (that’s Regency-speak for hypochondriac) who wants to see his three daughters wed before he shuffles off this mortal coil. Hence, his insistence that their annual house party take place, in hopes that some eligible gentlemen will help fulfil his wish.
Lady Elizabeth Wilde, (Lizzie) the eldest daughter, is shocked by her father’s sudden change in condition and begins to suspect that someone may be poisoning him. Intrepid Lady Elizabeth takes herself off to Bow Street to hire a runner, and there she encounters Dysart (no first name), lounging on the pavement smoking a cheroot. He happens to be the only runner available at the moment, so Lizzie engages him. Despite his scruffy appearance and insolent manner, Dysart knows something about high society, so the plan is for him to join the house party as a guest, using a pseudonym and some concocted connections to the duke.
From the moment Dysart joins Lizzie for the carriage ride to Suffolk, sparks are flying, but neither one of them will acknowledge it. I knew that I would love Dysart when I read this exchange:
“I am Lady Elizabeth Wilde.” . . .
“Are ye now?”
“Am I what?”
The maid let out a gasp.
Dysart is an enigma. He can drop his Bow Street accent and smart-arse attitude to converse like a gentlemen in a flash. He apparently has a gentleman’s wardrobe, for no mention is made of him being dressed inappropriately. He knows which fork to use. One of the guests, a nasty piece of work named Pendleton, even recognizes him and calls him “Gus.” Dysart, however, has the goods on Pendleton and threatens him with exposure to keep him silent. He roams the house at all hours investigating and he suspects everyone. From time to time, we see Dysart’s inner bad boy make an appearance; Lizzie sees it too, and she likes it.
But Lizzie does not want to like it; Dysart is completely unsuitable for a duke’s daughter. Besides, she is expected to marry her second cousin Snowley, her father’s fussy, fastidious heir. The thought of intimacy with him makes her shudder, but she must consider the possibility; it is her father’s fondest wish, and Lizzie is a dutiful daughter. Along with being dutiful, however, Lizzie is strong, intelligent, and brave. Due to her father’s years of illness, she is the de facto head of the household and is a substitute mother to her two younger sisters. While Lizzie is a modern character in some ways, Ashlyn Macnamara does an excellent job making her a woman of her time, although I must say that Lizzie is a good deal bolder in carnal matters that one would expect of a gently bred young lady. The sexual tension between her and Dysart is so palpable, though, that she might be forgiven her indiscretions.
Although there are plenty of secondary characters, some of whom are just there to set up the rest of the series, Dysart is the star of this book. He is taciturn, moody, clever, gallant, and hot as coals of glowing fire. (Fans of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series might be reminded Brisbane from time to time!) Clearly, he has a past, which he gradually shares with Lizzie as the investigation draws them closer; and the events of that past demonstrate just what a noble soul lies beneath the rough exterior.
Although the mystery was unexciting (until the surprisingly thrilling ending), I thoroughly enjoyed To Lure a Proper Lady and added a star to my rating just for Dysart. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.