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Lady Wesley's Salon

Historical romance.

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The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #6)
Jennifer Ashley
The Lady's Companion - Carla Kelly Another five-star read from Carla Kelly.

Susan Hampton's father, Sir Rodney, is a gambler. Indeed he's such a bad gambler that he's lost everything, including Susan's pearls inherited from her late mother. After Susan and Sir Rodney moved in with his sister, Susan realizes that her future role will be as the unpaid, unappreciated servant to her haughty aunt. Determined to control that future herself, she impulsively gets a job as a companion to the widowed Lady Bushnell and takes herself off to that lady's Cotswald estate.

She forms a close friendship with Lady Bushnell's bailiff, David Wiggins, a Welshman who had served the late General Bushnell in the Napoleonic Wars. Lady Bushnell had followed the drum with her husband through the wars, and David came to work for her after the general died at Waterloo. Susan finds herself increasingly attracted to David, but the chasm between their places in society may be too broad to be overcome. The main part of the book relates the growing trust and affection among Susan, David, and indeed Lady Bushnell.

What I Liked

Susan. Carla Kelley's heroines are never delicate flowers, and even though Susan is a gently-bred lady she has great courage, a sense of humor, and a stubborn streak.

Lady Bushnell. What a marvelous woman! She has led a life of adventure, and she's determined to maintain her independence to the end. She has no desire for a companion (there already have been several who she ran off). Susan, however, manages to make herself useful to the lady, and more important, to quickly win the confidence of the bailiff (who has a great deal of influence over Lady Bushnell).

The secondary characters. The story is enriched by Kelley's portrait of Lady Bushnell's household, as well as Susan's horrible family. And Kelley doesn't sugar coat things: the family remains horrible up to the end. And then there's the Jewish employment agent, whom first met David at Waterloo. His story is a minor piece of the plot, but it's beautifully done.

David Wiggins. He's a bastard, raised in the workhouse, a poacher, and a thief. The Army (with an assist from Lady Bushnell) was his salvation, and now he works devotedly to develop a new strain of wheat using seeds he brought back from Waterloo. Society does not consider him a gentleman, but in reality he is much more of a gentleman than Susan's father.

What I Didn't Like. I have absolutely no criticisms. The only minor thing that aggravated me was the author's habit of referring to David as "the bailiff." When this term was used in Susan's ruminations, I found it off-putting. No big deal, obviously.

My number one favorite Carla Kelly book is still [b:Reforming Lord Ragsdale|222808|Reforming Lord Ragsdale|Carla Kelly|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1326078378s/222808.jpg|215768], but The Lady's Companion is every bit as good. If you like authentic historical romances, do try Carla Kelly.