Sunday, January 31

The Paid Companion - Amanda Quick

When Miss Elenora Lodge discovers her rapacious, recently deceased stepfather wagered, and lost, her home, she is reassured by her relationship with doting Jeremy Clyde. Until, as quickly as he hears the news, he abandons her. Like all women of modest means and dim prospects, she heads to London and seeks employment as a paid companion. But it seems that not everyone is happy to employ an outspoken, bold woman in her mid-twenties.
When he hears that his betrothed, Juliana, has fled to Gretna Green with her young lover, Arthur Lancaster (the Earl of St. Merryn) remarks only that next time he will seek a partner through an agency. Though received as a witticism, when a change in need sparked by the murder of his beloved great uncle requires he not be bothered by the bright young things of the current season (and, as importantly, by their mamas), Arthur does indeed avail himself of Goodhew & Willis.
Quick combines a period romance, peopled with characters that both embody their era and yet defy it, with a mystery. Someone is tracking down three mysterious jewels from the orient, and it seems likely their intent is to create an alchemical machine, a mystery of ancient lapidary.
Told from the perspectives of Arthur, Elenora and the mysterious and shadowy murderer and alleged genius, the Paid Companion is a good cut above the genre in general. There is sparking dialogue, a satisfying secondary romance and a rewarding secondary plot about a beautiful but dastardly butler, and the occasional amusing line. I particularly liked the following exchange:
"Oh, Arthur, that is the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me."
"Thank you. I was rather pleased with it myself. I practiced it during the carriage ride here today."
The physical love scenes are well placed, necessarily explicit but not gratuitous, the characters are engaging and fresh, and the mystery creates a strong foundation for the novel, providing impetus for both the plot and the primary relationship.
It was through Lynn's reviews that I first learned of Ms Quick's work and I have not yet been disappointed - Alex

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