Mary Jo Putney is known for her historical romances and
psychological depth of character. She returns with another Lost
Lord novel, her second book in a series that is set in England
in the early 1800s. Putney will delight readers with these stories
about the troublesome boys of the Westerfield Academy. In NEVER
LESS THAN A LADY, we become reacquainted with Mrs. Julia Bancroft
and Major Alexander Randall, who first appeared in LOVING A LOST
It is Spain in 1812, and Randall’s uncle writes informing
him that he is now the heir apparent to the Daventry earldom due to
the death of his cousin. His obligations are as follows: return to
England, sell out his army commission, marry and produce an heir.
Randall does come home to London to Duke Ashton and his wife,
Mariah, and goes to Scotland to visit friends. As he is returning
to London, he stops in Hartley at the home of Mariah’s
Mrs. Bancroft, who lives at Rose Cottage in Hartley, is a
midwife. But as there is no physician nearby, she also treats
wounds, minor illnesses, and sets bones. When she is abducted by
three men, her apprentice, Jenny, witnesses the incident and
escapes. She arrives where Randall is staying and recounts the
incident to him, including the odd details that one of the men
referred to her as Lady Julia and a murderer by a man called
Crockett. Randall sets off to rescue Julia.
With Randall’s help, Julia breaks free from the
kidnappers. When asked about the murder accusation, she recounts
her story of suffering at the hand of an abusive husband who died
from an accident. Julia faked her own death and took on the name of
the midwife who helped her. Randall learns that she is really Lady
Julia Rains, daughter of a Duke who was married to Daventry’s
son, Branford. He has his own story of how he suffered at the hands
of Branford. As a child, he was sent to live with his uncle, half
brother to his father. It was during that time in his life that
Randall ended up at the Westerfield Academy.
Randall proposes marriage. This is an unsuitable match for both
of them, yet it solves his need to marry and also protects her. He
is in line to be the next Earl of Daventry, and the current Earl is
Julia’s past father-in-law. She is downright scared to be
with a man after her first marriage. Yet this couple has an
undeniable connection with and attraction to each other. She finds
him handsome. He realizes that she is the only woman he knows who
he would even consider marrying. They agree to wed with
stipulations and set off to Edinburgh, Scotland.
The marriage sets into motion a series of events for them both.
Julia is shot at when she returns to Rose Cottage to pick up her
belongings and give her cottage to Jenny. Randall takes his wife to
see her father, who greets her with little enthusiasm and immense
dislike. They visit her former father-in-law and his uncle, and
discover that his third wife, Lady Daventry, is expecting. They are
met with disbelief and anger. Lord Daventry still believes that
Julia murdered his son. Julia counters with her story of nearly
being kicked to death by Branford and the loss of their child.
Randall requests that the men he knows were hired by Daventry stop
terrorizing Lady Julia.
Julia begins to build her life again as she re-enters society
and meets old friends and family. Will they accept her again?
Randall and Julia discover that she has a stepson, Benjamin, who
comes to live with them. Julia’s life may still be in danger,
but from whom?
Mary Jo Putney’s stories always carry a depth of emotion
and sensual tone. Her characters, plot and themes take place in
historical times, yet she writes about struggles that face women in
today’s world. They always leave the reader with a feeling of
hope and faith that women will find their way in the world and
discover a love for all time.
Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on January 12, 2011