In My Fair Lady Henry Higgins turns Eliza Doolittle from a “guttersnipe” into a lady. In My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen, a Regency twist, society girl Ivy Carlisle is tasked with turning sailor Jack who’d rather be at sea into Lord of the manor. Jack is the grandson and unwilling heir of the Earl of Stansworth, who disinherited Jack’s late father following his marriage outside of society’s class restrictions.
When the earl dies, Jack is left as the unexpected and unwilling heir and he is required to give up his seafaring life in order to ensure the welfare of his mother and sister. Ivy’s grandmother was the confidante of the late earl’s wife and has made it her mission to care for her best friend’s family. So she tasks her granddaughter Ivy with the job of tutoring Jack in the ways of polite society.
The story takes on some complicating twists as it becomes apparent that someone is conspiring to take Jack’s life, and his biggest challenge is not learning to fit into a society he despises, but merely staying alive. And Ivy is not without a few surprises of her own as we learn she is the secret author of a popular advice column, a job that would be mightily frowned upon in regency-era society.
Beyond the main story, I found the side stories to be equally engaging, as Ivy begins to build a friendship and then a shared mission with Jack’s sister.
Nancy Campbell Allen writes with an easy, engaging style that draws the reader in, and unfolds the characters much as you would come to know a person in real life. The main characters in My Fair Gentleman were well-developed, multi-dimensional and likable. Even some of the supporting, incidental characters were more well-rounded than often happens in novels. I have to admit when I got to the end of this book, I wished for a sequel because I enjoyed it so much. Are you listening, Ms. Campbell?
I also enjoyed the fact that it was a clean read and I knew I was not going to be unpleasantly surprised by graphic scenes. Yeah, I’m kind of old-fashioned that way. Personally, I think it takes a much higher quality of writer to produce a romance based on relationship-building than defaulting to sex scenes to make a story. Nancy Campbell Allen has demonstrated herself to be such a writer.
My Fair Gentleman is a welcome addition to Shadow Mountain Publishing’s Proper Romance series, and an enjoyable light read whether or not you are a romance fan.
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