|While reading this story, I was engaged and smiling and genuinely able to enjoy this tale. But after a few days when I sat down to write this review, I realized that the story had a lot of holes and quite a bit of convenience that just didn’t hold up under scrutiny. My suggestion is to read A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior in the frame of mind just to enjoy the story.
Theresa Weller is a Viscount’s sister and has an inheritance of her own from her parents, who died in a carriage accident when Theresa was just ten. That accident changed her life because a) she survived it and b) she has always assumed guilt over it. As a child, Theresa often wanted her own way. On this night, when her siblings wanted to stay with friends, Theresa threw a temper tantrum and demanded her parents take her home to get her stuffed animal. They did, and died in the storm that suddenly arose. Ever since that day, Theresa has followed all the rules about proper decorum, so much so as to write a book for young ladies on proper behavior. She is rich, seen as a paragon of etiquette and quite sought after. In her third season, she has had nine proposals; several suitors have proposed multiple times. Her most persistent beau is Lord Montrose and she isn’t quite certain she will eventually grant him her hand.
Her cousin, Amelia, who is like a sister to her, is married to Stephen, Lord Garner. His younger brother is Bartholomew James, a retired Colonel from the British forces who served in India. Tolly, as he is known, has been back for a year but is injured and doesn’t seem to be recovering. He has broken bones in his leg that don’t seem to be healing. He has made himself a recluse. Until he meets up with Tess Weller, that is. Tess fascinates him just as he fascinates her. She is pulled to Tolly because of his eyes and when she hears his story, she feels a kinship. Tolly feels some of that same pull, but he also thinks Tess can pull his soul from the dark side too.
Tolly was wounded when his entire troop was ambushed by a band of marauders in India. They left all of his men dead and him to die but he managed to escape. He is one of only a few to do so. He has enemies in the East India Company, who despair that his tales will dim their profits, but Tolly wants to prove his men did not die in vain. Unfortunately, his attempts at telling the tale put him in danger, just as he tries to get out into society so he can court Tess.
There are a great many interesting scenes and yet, those scenes are often hard to believe.A doctor decides to re-break Tolly’s leg to help it heal but when doing so, Tess comes in and is the only one with the stomach to assist a rather messy procedure. This just didn’t ring true for the times. Then Tess pushes herself at Tolly and is often alone with him during his recuperation. No scandal comes about from her actions, although it is hinted at. Another situation occurs when Tolly is in harm’s way and Tess rides along with the men to the rescue. This just doesn’t make sense for the time and the era.
Tolly is often sullen and hard to like at first. While he has a reason for being a recluse, he never seems to really fit the part and jumps up too easily to make that part believable. He is a man’s man and very engaging, even though at times it is easy to forget that he is essentially an invalid. There were just too many dichotomies once you looked beyond the surface. Tess is a similar creature; first she is overly concerned about propriety and her standing in society, and the next minute she is throwing caution to the wind and doesn’t care who knows.
A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior is an interesting novel; it rather reminds me of the style of Julia Quinn. And while it doesn’t quite measure up, it is still an acceptable novel for fun’s sake.