I admit that I didn’t read it right away. Actually, I picked it up, started reading, and realized that the heroine and her brother were part of an actor’s troupe. I stopped reading instantly, because I was writing a book where the heroine had grown up in a traveling actor’s troupe. (Ahem.) Sometimes, you just don’t want to bias what you’re writing.
But a few months later, someone tweeted about that book, and I remembered how awesome the premise sounded–truly, utterly awesome! This is a book about a young woman who dresses up as another man’s valet. I love books about cross-dressing, in part because it allows members of the opposite sex to go places that were forbidden–gaming clubs and duels and Whites and Tattersalls. But having the heroine masquerade as a valet? That takes forbidden to a whole new level. Valets, after all, don’t just go places that are forbidden. They help their master dress, shave, and bathe. It’s like forbidden times two.
So I picked up the book again, and I’m so glad I did. The execution was even better than the promise. Not only did Joanna Chambers do the “forbidden” things that I looked forward to (and if you want to convince yourself how awesome she is, read this amazing scene on her website), but she managed to capture the intimate, asymmetric relationship that arises between servants and their master. Georgy (the heroine) takes her job very seriously. In learning to anticipate her master’s needs and desires, she actually learns quite a bit about who her master is. He’s a staid, responsible gentleman, who sees his attire as armor that he wears against the rest of the world. He readies himself for the day by putting on clothing with exacting taste.
But because Georgy is the one who is responsible for helping him put on and take off his armor, she gets to see behind the mask that he wears. She sees who he is when he’s not playing the Lord. And what develops between the two is something special. Not friendship at first; Nathan isn’t the sort of person who would make friends with his servants on a whim. It’s something deeper and more intimate, because Nathan casually trusts Georgy with the essence of him, and Georgy learns to treasure it.
I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil the discovery for you. Suffice to say that I utterly adored this book, and I hope you will too!
It’s available only in electronic copy right now. I’ve actually never given away e-copies, but this is definitely the time for me to figure out how that works. I’m going to give away three copies of this book to various commenters. Comment by tomorrow, and I’ll pick the winners and we’ll figure out the giveaways!