|Sometimes one picks up a book thinking you will be reading one type of story, only to find you have another. The cover states “The man who ruins reputations” as the subtitle. The back cover promises us a story of a man who isn’t considered proper and an heiress looking for a titled lord who is intrigued by him. These titillating glimpses of the plot hide a wealth of differences from the reader and actually keep the reader from recognizing the depth of the characters that they will find in this book. Don’t be fooled. Despite the title, the hero is one who garners respect from the reader and the heroine is no silly miss. Society’s Most Disreputable Gentleman is a story that one will enjoy and is recommended without hesitation.
Greville Anders is the cousin of an Earl and his family, though part of a secondary branch of the family, has never been fully embraced by society. Greville was educated and enjoyed debauchery like many young men attending college. He then spent some time in France in the war and upon his discharge; he was employed by his cousin as an estate manager. During this time, he was duped by a man he met in the Army and convinced to live the life of leisure while this man actually ran the estates. The man, was not a good manager, and pilfered rents off the top and ill-treated the tenants.
By the time Greville found out about the mistrust he gave this man, the man made certain that Greville was removed from the situation…he had him impressed into the Navy. Greville could not convince anyone of his identity and spent almost a year serving as a seaman on the Illustrious, a ship fighting pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. As the story opens, Greville is back in England, having been wounded in a major battle. Finally released with the help of his sister and his cousin, he needs to recuperate from his wounds while the Admiralty can be convinced to release him from his service. He is sent to the home of a friend. Lord Bronning, who lives near the coast.
Bronning is a widower with a young daughter and an even younger niece living with him. His wife and her sister both died in the last year after a fever devastated the household. The niece is fourteen and a tomboy. Althea feels like a lost waif and often takes her anger out on her cousin. Amanda Neville is past due for a season in London, something she and her mother dreamed of for years. She is due to go when the next season starts, staying with a dear friend of her mother’s. Their dream is for her to meet someone who works in government so she can be a political wife and be respected by the ton. Amanda is beautiful and smart. Raised to be a political wife means she received some education others her age did not receive. She also has acted as her father’s hostess for the last two years. She cares for the estate, the tenants and directs the servants. She is not a cowering miss.
These two find themselves attracted and living in the same home, plenty of opportunity to get to know each other occurs. As both recognize a person they can relate to, their friendship grows. Greville has undergone a major personality change as he had to accept his status on the ship. He was humbled by the strengths and hard work of the men he served with. He learned to endure more than he ever thought he could and he realized that he needed to find something that mattered to him to do…a life of leisure was no longer a reasonable purpose for him.
Amanda shouldered a lot of responsibility since her father is not totally recovered from his illness. She enlisted Greville’s help when the local smuggling gang came under attack from less savory men. And she fell in love with him and he with her. The story follows them as they both find their way, with Amanda going to London for her season and Greville finding that country living is really his calling.
This is not a perfect book. Some of the tale drags just a bit as these two talk their way out of following their hearts multiple times. It is clear to the reader what should happen way before the two characters come to the same conclusion. But ultimately they acted maturely to find their HEA. This ensures the reader feels satisfied and allows me to recommend Society’s Most Disreputable Gentleman, title notwithstanding.