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***Note: My copy is part of the complete boxed set that Wendy Vella recently released, so my location numbers are based on that.***
Wendy Vella's Lady in Disguise was a memorable series starter and set the tone for the two other Langley sisters. I only realised it now, but I also used the word "unconventional" in my review of Olivia's story and it's also the same word that applies to Phoebe's story. Everything about Phoebe Langley is unconventional: she and her sisters once lived as impoverished, genteel ladies by day who masqueraded as highwaymen at night. They were saved from that life by Olivia's marriage to Will Ryder.
Phoebe is also unconventionally beautiful: many ladies in society are beautiful, Phoebe's sisters are beautiful, but Phoebe stands out as being breathtakingly so. Phoebe also happens to be unconventionally outspoken. Of these three qualities, it is quite surprising that Finn would object to Phoebe's beauty first with her "lack of social graces" at a very close second. Finn had decided a long time ago that he would marry a woman who was the complete opposite of his own mother -- Finn wanted a woman who was biddable, predictable and one who behaved as society dictated.
Finn comes across as very arrogant and controlling and I didn't really want to like him, but I realised how difficult his situation must have been when he became the guardian and "parent" of his younger brothers while also taking on the responsibilities of his title. I could relate to the change that happened to Finn as time past, and it was gratifying to see his brothers recognise and appreciate how Finn had taken care of them. In most stories, there's often an outside source of conflict but, in this story, the hero also happens to be his own enemy. Finn wrestles with the duality of his feelings for Phoebe: on one hand, he is attracted to her, but, on the other hand, he disapproves of her.
What I enjoyed most was how Phoebe refused to bend or be intimidated by Finn and by others like Finn. She was very brave, very defiant (but not in an unruly or rebellious sort of way).
...Phoebe often heard people talking about her, usually women tittering about something she'd said or done, but she ignored them and kept a smile fixed firmly on her face. She knew some people found her outspoken; however, she would not apologise for it. Phoebe had decided long ago to be true to herself.
- loc 4375
Lady in Demand also highlights how brave Phoebe and Hannah Wooller are to pursue their dreams and passion. This novel also does much in breaking the mold/definition of what it means to be male (Alexander, Finn's brother, involvement in Phoebe and Hannah's business). As I read through this part, I could sense some chemistry between Hannah and Ben, and I sincerely hope this is something the author plans to explore in the future. ^_^
"I know you have doubts about Alex, Hannah. However, it is my belief that he will be a very good business partner. He is smart like his older brother and has a wonderful flare for both fashion and color. I would hate for you to turn him aside just because he is a man, as that hardly seems fair considering the prejudices we often face."
- loc 5314
There are two parts of the story which I thought were a bit odd: first, the impropriety of Lord Wooller asking Phoebe to call him "Woolly" and Phoebe proceeding to do so, and, second, that Phoebe bore a resemblance to Finn's mother (?).
...What was it about Phoebe Langley that unsettled him, he wondered, other than her physical attributes, which, if he was honest, were disturbing enough.
Because she's like your mother.
Looking down into her beautiful face, he realised the truth in his thoughts. She was like his parent, and Finn vowed long ago to stay well away from any woman who ever remotely resembled his mother.
- loc 4235 to 4245
While this did not have the uniqueness of Olivia's story, what I enjoyed about Phoebe's story is how it presents family dynamics: the Langley sisters and Finn and his brothers. Both sets of siblings have been orphaned and, while Olivia and her sisters seem to be settled in their lives, Finn is still trying to come to terms that his younger brothers are now adults who should be making their own decisions. Despite the differences (and the suspicion) Finn genuinely cares for his brothers' welfare, and Ben and Alex respect Finn.
"Am I such an ogre, then?" He wasn't sure how he felt about his brothers descriptions of his character. His life had been full of responsibilities since his father's death and his mother's move to France with her new husband. There had not been no room for fun and laughter, he supposed, but Finn had always believed he could enjoy a joke when warranted and even make one himself if he felt the urge.
"Not an ogre precisely, brother," Ben said. "We understand you have responsibilities, us included." He looked at Alex, who nodded back encouragingly. "But you are a very serious chap. In fact, we had this conversation just a day ago, didn't we, Alex, about how surprised we are that Will is your best friend considering his humorous disposition."
- loc 4687 to 4698
Two questions: Marquess or Viscount? In the first chapter, Finn is introduced as Marquess of Levermarch, but in subsequent pages, he is a Viscount. Barrick or Hetherington? In the same first chapter, Finn is Finneous Barrick, but his brother, Alex, was introduced as Mister Hetherington to Hannah.
Lady in Demand is book 2 in Wendy Vella's Langley Sisters series. To find out more about Wendy Vella and her books, click below: