Comment: Around four years ago, I got Practically Wicked by author Alissa Johnson and really liked it. Since it was the first book I tried by the author, I wasn't aware it was the third in a series and now that the opportunity came forth, I've started the first one, this Nearly a Lady, which I hoped would be as engaging.
The story begins with Lord Gideon traveling to an estate of his family because he was told by his brother, the marquess, that a ward of him lived there. Upon arrival, he is practically attacked and realizes his attackers are two young ladies, one of them his brother's ward and the other he comes to understand, is the young woman his bother fell in love twelve years ago but never forgot even thinking has had married.
While trying to untangle all the secrets, Gideon lives with the young women for a while, he even got servants for the house after realizing the women haven't been living with the money they were supposed to have gotten. Convincing them to go to London to be presented to society proved quite difficult, especially because Winnifred, his brother's ward, happens to be a serious but free girl who is witty and friendly but finds no interest in the sort of subjects young ladies do. How will things be between them in London, will they still be friends?
I liked the other book I've read by this author. I found the writing easy and captivating and the story was entertaining. Of course I'd expect the same in this novel and generally speaking, the same expectations were met.
However, the plots are different, even if the characters are connected (although here one wouldn't see how this and the third are connected) and that obviously interferes with the way readers might like or not the stories. I think that this one had a lot of potential and for a while that was met but not the whole story felt as constant for me.
The beginning of the story was very good: the characters meet in an almost funny setting, both parties (Winnifred and Lilly vs Lord Gideon) think something about the other which later proves to be incorrect and there's a genuine feel of respect and friendship between them. I really liked how they met, how they started to interact with one another and of course, as this is a romance, how Gideon and Winnifred butted heads at the same time they seemed to feel good in each others' company. I suppose that, if the story had going more along these lines, this would have been perfect. But at some point, plot reasons make the characters go to London, where they meet other people and see themselves in completely different scenes and situations.
The story started to lose speed when Winnifred saw herself in a situation she couldn't control. There are many ways of dealing with this but I confess I struggled to find the will to keep on reading about her difficulties and actions. It just didn't ring interesting. Then, of course, her relationship with Gideon took a turn into cliché mode and that alone would have brought my grading down, no matter what. The constant indecision, changing of mind, following analytical POVs of what "is expected" and not their real feelings (and attention, no reason why they couldn't admit their feelings or be together except for Gideon's personal views on certain issues) for one another, all that bored me a little bit. In the end, the romance wasn't as smooth as I hoped for after the first pages. The HEA is cute, yes, but I don't think this feels as memorable for me.
Many people seem to criticize the attitudes and quirkiness of the characters, namely Winnifred because they don't resemblance real people from that time. I don't mind this aspect as I thought it gave the story something different to focus on and it wasn't not that exaggerated that would ruin the story. But I agree this was not always a very well thought plot overall and if not for the easy way one can read this and several fun scenes, this wouldn't be as positive for me.