Here’s the premise: Graine Ashley comes from a good family but there’s no money to support an unmarried sister of twenty-seven. She’s obliged to become a governess, but she’s too good looking to escape becoming prey to the master of the house, the younger generation or the male guests at house parties. So for her latest position, she’s adopted a disguise to protect herself, using greasepaint, fake shoulder humps, a limp and a mouse-like demeanour. The resident male is the Earl of Valminster, and thankfully he’s very proper and treats her with suitable disinterest.
The plot runs on predictable rails, so inevitably there’s a troublesome boy who likes to play pranks on the new governess, which (since she’s the heroine) she deflects with aplomb, thereby winning the respect of the children. But inevitably the disguise is uncovered and the real Graine is forced to step forward. The earl wants to know the reason for the subterfuge, and when she explains, he assures her that she will never be importuned while under his roof. And then he promptly falls in love with her but can’t speak out because of that promise. How very Regency.
And basically, that is the whole plot. She is the perfect governess, he is the perfect nobleman, and anyone looking for the now customary deeply flawed main characters, with daddy issues or a Deep Dark Secret – well, you’ll be disappointed. The servants are the usual benign old retainers, the relations are friendly and even the troublesome children turn into little near-paragons of juvenile virtue by the halfway point. There is some drama, but it’s all designed to show the hero and heroine in an appropriately heroic light. The romance inches steadily towards its inevitable conclusion, and in the end, only that promise and a stupid misunderstanding (yes, that old chestnut) keep them apart for long.
This makes it sound very dull, but actually I found it a relief from the overwrought and highly improbable antics of most Regencies. Two sensible and likeable leads with a very believable romance made for a very pleasant read, and all beautifully written with not an anachronism in sight. Five stars.