13 February, 2012

Review: Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne

 Oh, Joanna Bourne. 
While some girls have it bad for sparkly vampire triangles, I am all about the traditional regency with a cliff and a few dead governesses. Give me a mysterious guardian and his young imperiled ward over melting folds and throbbing pleasure poles any day of the week. I am all about the nicest room she's ever had and the strange dysfunction of the new household. With all of this being true, how did I ever miss Her Ladyship's Companion? (I can answer that, actually. In 1983 I was buying most of my books used. As well, I was an imprint snob. Signet and Dell Candlelight were my drugs of choice.) While I am sorry that I read Her Ladyship's Companion already knowing the primary players, I can't regret coming to it so late in it's life. Too many beloved authors never published again. Imagine, however, a world in which Bourne had continued publishing gothics, a world where I could find a backlist dozens of volumes deep. I can never be new to Carla Kelly or new to Edith Layton, but I could have been new to Joanna Bourne, if Joanna Bourne hadn't gone and had a life. 

What's done is done! The popularity of Downton Abbey makes this the perfect time to republish older Regencies. The spoiled daughter of the house, the frustrated member of the house party, the acerbic and all seeing matriarch. and of course, always, the young ingenue trying to discover true love before someone kills her. In this case Giles has recruited the unfortunately named Melissa to act as a companion to the lady in question. He'd have done better to replace the recently deceased governess of the house, but putting Melissa in a slightly different role gives her a broader view of the action. Is someone trying to kill the young master? Is he a lonely and overly imaginative child? C'mon! They have a cliff AND an island! What do you think?
Her Ladyship's Companion also features the first appearance of Bourne's personal Rothgar, the beloved Adrian Hawkhurst, I expected Bourne would have reinvented these characters for her newer works but Adrian certainly works both as Hawker and as the charming houseguest we see through Melissa's eyes. A reader approaching Her Ladyship's Companion looking for a modern tale may be slightly disappointed, but the fault lies in their desires. In 1983 Bourne delivered a pitch perfect tweak of the gothic regency and it holds up very well today. I longed for a shelf full of books just like it as soon as I closed the cover. Is that always the effect of Joanna Bourne? In some ways, she hasn't changed her style at all.

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