To Lure a Proper Lady, by Ashlyn MacNamara

When I reviewed a previous Ashlyn MacNamara book, I gave her writing a lukewarm but honest endorsement. Unfortunately, her upcoming novel To Lure A Proper Lady is the kind of hot mess that undoes a lot of preexisting goodwill.

When Lady Elizabeth Wilde and her sisters are summoned (once again) to their hypochondriac father's “deathbed”, they assume he is exaggerating his illness. This time, however, their father's condition seems to be serious... and unnatural. Suspecting poison, Elizabeth hires a Bow Street Runner to investigate: a mysterious man known only as Dysart. Dysart is determined to solve the poisoning mystery, but his investigation risks exposing several of his own secrets, as well.

Unfortunately, this was one of those books where I have so many complaints I actually have to address them in list form. (Never a good sign.) Please note, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD:

1. Most of the action in this book takes place at a house party at a duke's estate in 1822. While the heroine is praised as a “natural hostess”, she has to cobble together the musicians for a party, she seems to be making up all of the entertainments on the fly (most of which don't work out, by the way), there are several problems with the room assignments, and she is informed literally as the guests are arriving that the household is critically low on supplies. So, she's the kind of gifted party planner who fails to consider food, lodging, or entertainment.

2. The hero has one of the dumbest back stories I've encountered in ages: he is secretly a nobleman's son, who witnessed one of his family servants (whom he barely knew) being raped by a house guest. When the girl discovers she's pregnant, he marries her, because anyone else she might marry would expect her to make herself sexually available, despite her traumatic past. Something like that. We're clearly supposed to find him noble and self-sacrificing, but I couldn't get past his jaw-dropping stupidity. Why not just offer the girl money? A young man of fortune could easily have set up a young woman and her infant in reasonable comfort. Hell, they did it all the time! This actually seemed like a fixable plot point: if the servant girl and he had been childhood friends, for example, I might have found his decision to throw away his entire life more compelling.

3. In one of the novel's more ridiculous twists, the heroine discovers that someone has been embezzling funds from her father's estate. Does it occur to her that this might be of interest to the professional detective she has hired? No, of course not. BECAUSE SHE'S AN IDIOT.

4. Who does the editing for these books? Why is an English noblewoman—the daughter of a duke!—using phrases like “young folks” and “I reckoned”? Every time the heroine blurted out another old-timey-yet-100%-wrong phrase, I think I had a tiny rage blackout.

To do it justice, To Lure a Proper Lady had its moments, even if they were few and far between. I enjoyed the hypochondriac dad, and the (dumb) leads displayed reasonable chemistry. But the entire story felt like a muslin mock-up of a dress—the ideas were there, but the entire thing needed to be remade with far, far better materials.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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