Lady Emma Wells-Finch is on a mission – ostensibly in Texas to research one of St Gert’s Old Girls, in truth she has a far more important aim: to discourage the martrimonial interests of the Duke of Beddington an unpleasant man looking for his third wife and the mother of his heir. Sadly his few requirements are neatly met by Emma – well-born, comely, thirty or under, spotless of reputation, and virginal. Emma must somehow manage to disqualify herself, without allowing him to realise this is her intent, for if she refuses him outright, the Duke has unambiguously threatened to sell St Gertrude’s, the only place that was ever home to her, and where she is now a beloved principal.
Emma has a number of options – she’s considered getting a tattoo, or being seen drunk in public, but losing her virginity will be a move the Duke can’t possibly overlook. The mildly subnormal man her friend Francesca has arranged to escort her in Texas looks as though he’ll do nicely – virile, rugged, but a little slow on the uptake. When she discovers Kenny’s only chauffeuring her around as a favour to Francesca, and is really a golf pro on hiatus after being suspended by the PGA commisioner, Emma is taken back but not dissuaded – he’s still no intellectual giant. But all is not as it seems.
Lady Be Good returns us to Wynette, Texas, home of previous SEP couple Francesca and Dallie Beaudine from FancyPants. Despite the romance novel trope of a heroine both in her late twenties and virginal despite being personable, intelligent and without a moral imperative to wait, Emma is fairly convincing. Her habit of assuming facts not in evidence is a little surprising given her job, but for the most part the hurdles between the characters are believable, and the one moment when my heart sank over a Tragic Misunderstanding was resolved on the following page, instead of irritatingly hanging around for a chapter and a half.
Though not my favourite of Phillip’s novels I did enjoy Lady Be Good, which is without question an above average romance novel that combines convincing protagonists, well developed secondary characters and two strong secondary plots against a background of romance between people of seeming incompatibility. - Alex