Her Ladyship's Companion was a book that I randomly selected to read on my Kindle because the premise sounded interesting. I had no prior knowledge of the author and I hadn't read any reviews. As with many of my randomly selected books, it was something of a mixed bag, quality wise. I have much to talk about with this book, but I'll try not to ramble.
The book is set in Scotland/England in 1811 and centers around Isabella, a woman in a loveless marriage. Her husband is abusive and hateful, and consequently Bella has grown quite depressed. Her cousin, who doesn't really know the cause of Bella's melancholy, thinks to cheer her up by hiring a male prostitute for her (as one does). Gideon comes to spend two weeks with Bella, and the two discover both mutual attraction and begin to show signs of affection.
Now, the reason that Bella is in this terrible marriage is that she was caught in an indiscretion with a stable boy, and her brother decided that the best possible solution was to marry her off quickly. In this, and other details, the book attempts to address female sexuality and how it was viewed at that time. Almost every time Bella attempts to take any agency in her own sex life, disaster ensues. This novel did a good job at addressing this idea and it comes to a fairly satisfactory resolution.
Aside from this quality, while I did not dislike Bella, she is not a character I would want to be. I pitied her. She's a helpless character, at the mercy of whatever happens to her. I wanted to see her develop more strength, or self sufficiency, than she did. Perhaps I'm being too hard on her, because given the time period her helplessness is not entirely her fault. But some backbone would not have gone amiss.
Gideon is also characterized as a victim of unfortunate circumstances. He's just trying to make the best of his low birth and status. He's pretty passive as far as heroes go--not an alpha male at all. I noted that the author took great pains to mention that, despite his long career as a prostitute, Gideon never agreed to sleep with men no matter what they offered to pay. It was as though the author was worried that readers would suspect him of being gay or bisexual. In addition to this, the author tries very hard to present Gideon as the much desired opposite of Lord Stirling (the abusive husband). All in all, I felt like his character was forced and unimaginative.
With two slightly weak, pitiable characters, it's hard to get really invested in a romantic relationship. But, to be absolutely fair, it was surprisingly not terrible. The sex was hot and plentiful. There are lots of sweet, tender moments. While I didn't find the happily-ever-after completely satisfying, I did believe that Bella and Gideon cared about one another.
There was one detail about the relationship that just...irked me. MINOR SPOILER: After Gideon leaves Bella and tries to go back to his life as a prostitute, he finds himself impotent. Yeah, he can't get it up for any other woman now (because that's what true love does?) I've seen this done a lot in paranormal romance--usually in the "fated mate" trope. This bothered me on a couple of levels: First, because I felt like his biggest motivation in returning to her was to get his equipment operating again and secondly, because I feel like it cheapens the monogamy. He's with her and only her, not because he made an emotional commitment to loyalty, but because he physically can't be otherwise.
What kind of recommendation can I make with this one? I don't want to suggest it to anyone, because it's such an odd book and it isn't very well written. But then again, there isn't anything glaringly wrong with it. So, I won't warn you off of it, if the premise sounds good to you. 2.5 stars.