Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Lord Gray's List by Maggie Robinson


Benton Gray loves his carefree life: he enjoys the favors of his generous mistress and the company of like-minded fellows intent in the pursuit of bachelor bliss. His escapades don't affect anyone and they are mostly harmless so, why is Lord Benton Gray the regular topic of The London List?

The London List was a floundering paper until its current writer/publisher took over and made money off the illicit details of the lives of the peers (two, in particular: Lady Immaculata and Lord Gray). For two years running, Lord Gray has been the subject du jour -- with articles that skewer him and his reckless ways.

Tired of the unwanted attention (and the untruths), Ben decides it is time to pay The London List a visit -- and is surprised (or not so surprised) to discover who was at the helm of this bane of his existence.

Evangeline Ramsay never dreamed she would live her life milling out a weekly paper -- but circumstances, and her father's illness, has forced Evie to dress up as a gentleman and take on the persona of R. Ramsay, publisher of The London List.

So why, of all the peers in the realm, did The London List choose to focus its spotlight on Benton Gray? Could Evie still be harboring feelings for Ben from ten years ago?

From their first encounter, after not having talked to each other in ten years, the answer seems to be yes. Ben has never forgotten the girl he loved, proposed marriage to, and then promptly broke his heart by refusing him. And Evie's never forgotten the handsome, easygoing, happy boy whom she gave her body and heart to -- but not her trust or her hand in marriage.

Ten years has changed Evie, but what about Ben?

Unconventional is the word that comes to mind as I think about this book.

Ben has decided to buy The London List, and had planned to close it down -- until he realizes how essential the newspaper is to the lives of the general public. He and Evie work out a compromise: she'll keep his name out of the paper and stop printing gossip about his peers and he'll let her keep running the paper.

The London List is the conduit for the people of England (read Chapter 6): it is a way to find help and to give it, a way to offer work and to find it -- and, for Evie and Ben, it becomes the means by which they find love. It was gratifying to see Evie and Ben slowly grow together as a couple through the work they share at The London List. Our hero and heroine have a great working relationship -- and have wonderful personal chemistry as well.

When Evangeline got to the office of The London List at half eight, she was shocked to see Ben with his feet propped up on her desk, sipping from a flash that smelled very much like coffee. He grinned and looked at his watch.

"Ah. Definitely an early bird."

"And you must be the worm," she snapped.

"Or it could be the other way around. I was here first you know."
- p. 82

I especially loved how Ben grew up in the course of the story -- though, to begin with, he didn't need much reform -- just a bit of direction. And Evie provides Ben with this.

Evangeline Ramsey was a romantic. A modern-day Don Quixote tilting at the windmills of British Life, organizing everyone into the little cubbies he'd seen on the wall, turning Miss Sturgess into Cinderella with the stroke of a pen. For all Evie's viciousness with him, she was a Fairy Godmother -- or, in their minds, Fairy Godfather -- to the rest of the world.

But who was going to make her wishes come true?
- p. 89

So, why unconventional? Their courtship doesn't happen in ballrooms or waiting rooms or in rides around the park -- but amidst the ink and grease of the printing press.

Evie is also a unique heroine -- she didn't have a normal childhood because of her gamester father and had to figure out life by herself. And she did well. She knew, when they were younger, that she couldn't have Ben then -- he was too much like her father for her comfort. They needed the time apart -- and it's telling that they never entertained being with anyone else but each other.

The best part of this novel was The London List -- a character in itself. The glimpse into the daily lives and needs of London -- of how powerful the printed word is and how it affects the lives of the lofty and the low.

A fun bonus: we get to find out where the idiom "out of sorts" came from (read p. 113). ^_^

Lord Gray's List is the first book in Maggie Robinson's latest series, The London List. The second book, Captain Durant's Countess will be released February 2013. To find out more about Maggie Robinson and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

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