Sabrina Jeffries’s English historical romance HOW TO WOO A RELUCTANT LADY features heroine Lady Miranda Sharpe, who writes Gothic romance novels for fun and profit. Miranda’s novels feature a character that’s based off the one man she’s ever loved, Giles Masters, because Giles kissed her and then made rude and cutting comments afterward when Miranda was only nineteen years old.
Miranda’s now twenty-eight, a successful writer, and an embarrassment to her family because she (gasp! shudders! horrors!) writes under her own name. Her grandmother, Hetty, wants Miranda married ASAP, but Miranda would rather be left alone; considering the only man she’s ever loved doesn’t want her, why should she be bothered? So she hatches what she believes is a clever scheme to get her grandma to back down — Miranda takes out a personal ad in a magazine, and hopes this latest scandal will get her grandma to write her off for good.
Instead, Hetty decides that Giles Masters should be given a chance, and summons him imperiously to talk with Miranda once he, too, shows up at the appointed time and place. Giles tells Hetty the truth, but not all of it — he kissed Miranda years ago, never forgot her, but wasn’t in position to marry her then. But now, he’s a successful barrister with a booming career; he can easily support a wife. So Hetty gives him her blessing, and the engagement commences, with the wedding held in due course.
While all of what Giles said to Hetty was true, it wasn’t the whole truth; this is because Giles has been a secret agent for the British government for many years. Now that he’s become such a high-profile person (about to be named as a “King’s Counsel,” which is an incredibly prestigious thing), his career as a spy has ended — yet Miranda, all unknowingly, has just the right knowledge to unwittingly expose him.
So will Miranda do this to gain her freedom, once she learns the whole truth? Or will Miranda decide that this makes Giles even more fascinating than before, especially considering how Giles loves Miranda’s writing, loves her, and wants to be with her? (Hint, hint: if you picked option #1, you haven’t read too many British historical romance novels.)
While the outcome of this novel was never in doubt, I enjoyed the “spy stuff,” I really liked the authenticity of the historical background, and I appreciated the fully believable plot. The writing here was crisp and clean, the romance was deft and light, and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading HOW TO WOO A RELUCTANT LADY. And if you enjoy historical romances as much as I do, you’ll probably enjoy this a great deal, too.
The only thing that annoyed me, and kept me from giving HOW TO WOO A RELUCTANT LADY an A, was some of the nature of Miranda’s personal story; she has some shady relatives, and I just didn’t see the point to them being in this novel at all except to perhaps throw her into a bit of danger and make Giles realize a bit quicker how much he truly loves Miranda. Even there, that whole plot complication smacked of a deus ex machina and was completely unnecessary.
— Reviewed by Barb