My Lady’s Trust

The Proper Wife

A Scandalous Proposal

The Wedding Gamble

My Lady’s Pleasure by Julia Justiss
(Harlequin Hist. #611, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29211-4
Rogue, gambler, handsome to a fault and living day to day on the earnings he makes in the less-than-respectable gaming halls. This describes our “hero” Teagan Michael Shane Fitzwilliams, son of a disgraced debutante and Irish groomsman. Theirs was a true love match, but when she ran away with the servant, their lives were forever tarnished in the ton. When orphaned six-year-old Teagan returned to his mother’s family, he was considered a pariah. On the surface, he was sent to Eton and Oxford and raised with the other family members. But underneath, he was shunned, and after seducing the headmaster’s married cousin at Oxford, he was disowned and left to find his way. Teagan, like many other spoiled noblemen, has chosen to spend his life gambling and drinking.

Widow to a soldier, generally innocent, strapped for money and forced to maintain a sheep farm in order to survive, Lady Valeria Arnold has never seen anyone so handsome. She first discovers Teagan in her barn about to seduce her maid and is stunned. Yet she is drawn to him and discovers that she lusts after him. When faced with this intriguing man just three days later, she vows to enjoy the adventure and she invites him to her hayloft (don’t want to shock the servants in the house, now do we?) and they engage in fantastic sex.

Had enough? I certainly had by this point, yet I persevered. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any better. First, the Dowager Countess of Winterdale, her husband’s grandmother, calls Valeria to London. Valeria has never met this woman, but she answers the summons, attends to her in her illness, grows to love her, enters society and inherits a fortune because of the care she offers.

Of course, this immediately puts her socially above Teagan, who is only accepted on the fringes of society. Yet, she wants to get to know him (after all they have shared great sex and he has been nice to her). Against the advice of everyone, she allows Teagan to escort her all over London, even in parts not acceptable, like the Tower and the docks.

There is little real insight into these two people. While the story infers there is a great relationship and friendship, it lacks details. Justiss implies they talk together and share, but there is no evidence of this. Entire sequences go back and forth telling the reader what the character is thinking, but not showing them doing anything or talking to each other. “Tedious” is the word that entered my mind as I was reading.

I could not understand what attracted Valeria to Teagan, and vice-versa. The rest of the story involves the two of them convincing themselves they are right for each other and should stay together. They share an unlikely two weeks of sexual bliss when Valeria travels to her new home and spends her days running this large estate and her nights in Teagan’s bed. Improbable and silly are apt descriptions of this section of the book.

For instance, Valeria is readily accepted by the servants and easily assumes the role of manager, although she has no experience at this. Teagan, by virtue of a lucky interruption of an attempted robbery, is embraced by the servants as a hero and is welcomed in this home, with no thoughts to propriety. Since he is currently without funds, he hangs around, spending his days reading and riding while Valeria works all day. It took everything I had to keep turning the pages and reading.

Secondary characters jump in and out, including servants, other rogues, a disgusting excuse for a Lord, (who happens to be Teagan’s cousin) and a mysterious Lord who acts as a protector to Teagan. Their presence in the story serves only as a distraction. Finally Teagan decides he must regain some of his standing in society if he ever hopes to win Valeria, and it happens extremely easily and is anti-climatic at best.

There is no bliss in reading this tale. Skip on by My Lady’s Pleasure.

--Shirley Lyons

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