Frances Hadley wants her dowry, since she never plans on getting married. Why should she when the men in her family have abandoned the women in their lives. First, her rake of a father left her mother and his children, hopping from woman to woman. Then her brother ran off to London when he finally came of age, leaving Frances in charge of the estate. If that’s the way men behave, she doesn’t need one. But she does need to look like one to get to London and get access to her funds. Jack Valentine escapes his mother’s annual house party, a not-so-secret matchmaking attempt for her unwed sons, after one too many pushy lady decides he make a good husband. Enough is enough, so he heads for London only to have to put up at a crowded inn for the night. When the innkeeper asks Jack’s help in escorting the young man sharing his room to town, Jack agrees. Can Frances keep her identity secret from Jack long enough to get to London?
I had such fun reading Surprising Lord Jack. Both Jack and Frances are lively, entertaining characters and their banter was humorous, without moving into a mean or negative vein. Frances has issues trusting men after her experiences with her father. Her realization that not all men are the same was very satisfying and MacKenzie handles the development with a deft hand. It’s not an overnight thing and Jack has to earn her trust slowly but, being a good romance hero, Jack is up to the challenge. He’s smart, charming and handsome. More importantly, though, he has a wonderful family, who has instilled in him a strong sense of honor and the capacity to love. He also has a need to help the less fortunate, which brings into play a bit of intrigue involving a serial killer preying on prostitutes and a few scandalous ladies of the Ton. It gives the story an edge of danger and mystery, although the majority of the story revolves around Jack, Frances and their friends and family.
Full of humor and heart, with interesting characters and emotional stories, I recommend Sally MacKenzie’s books to anyone who enjoys historical romances. This is actually a part of her “Duchess of Love” series but I don’t think readers have to have read the first book, Bedding Lord Ned, although the aftermath of that book is shown in this one – Surprising Lord Jack pretty much picks up right away but with enough of the details given that new readers can keep up. Personally, I find MacKenzie’s books so engaging and well-written, and I absolutely adore all the members of Jack’s family, that I will be picking up a copy of Ned’s story at the first opportunity. And I’m very much looking forward to her next book. There’s another brother, Ash, and his story looks like it’s going to be a doozy.