For most of her life, Melissa Atwell has lived in the same
manor house, in the same suite of rooms. She never even goes
downstairs, much less outside. She has encountered only a
handful of people, servants and merchants, all of them
warned never to touch her. Melissa's stepfather was that
concerned for her health and safety, that he didn't want her
exposed to anything that could make her ill. After her
father's death, she has no choice but to leave the only home
she's ever known, and while Melissa is excited by the chance
to experience everything she's only read about, she is also
afraid. Her uncle, Lord Braddock, plans to give her a Season
in London and marry her off, but if she can't bear the idea
of someone touching her hand, how will she handle a husband?
She soon turns to her cousin, John Atwell, to help expand
John is immediately attracted to the beautiful young woman,
but even though she's not a blood relative, she's off limits
to him. His father doesn't want anyone to know that Melissa
was born on the wrong side of the blanket, or she'll never
make a good marriage. John invites a couple of his friends
to visit the family's country home, so Melissa can ease her
way into group interactions. He hopes one of the gentlemen
might take a fancy to the girl and offer her before she has
to make her way through a crowded London Season. But when
one of his best friends asks for her hand, John finds he'll
do anything to stop the match and claim his captivating
"cousin" for his own.
Jane Goodger has created a unique heroine in THE MAD LORD'S
DAUGHTER. Melissa is intelligent and well-read, but she's
never truly experienced anything. It's fascinating to watch
her discover the big world beyond her bedroom, though I do
think Goodger could have gone a bit farther in that area.
Melissa and John are drawn to each other from the get-go,
but they both know it's impossible to be together. The
primary impediments to their happiness are her illegitimate
birth and Lord Braddock's attitudes towards love and
marriage. Goodger has given us believable obstacles, but I
feel they start to drag on a bit, only to have everything
come together too quickly and neatly at the end.
Despite those criticisms, THE MAD LORD'S DAUGHTER is an
unusual and enjoyable story that I would recommend to
readers who enjoy Victorian-era romances.
Locked away by her reclusive and intensely protective
father, the recently deceased "Mad Lord of Northumberland,"
Melissa is beautiful and educated but painfully naÃ¯ve about
the real world--and the dark secrets of her birth. Now in
the care of her uncle, the Earl of Braddock, she must
prepare to enter London society and find a proper husband, a
task that grows complicated when she falls for the one man
she can never have. Just as a promising new life begins to
eclipse her tragic past, she'll find herself consumed by a
forbidden love that could destroy it all. . .
How could she allow a man to touch her anywhere he
wished when she'd never even held a man's hand? She pressed
her gloved hands against her cheeks, feeling the smooth
silk against her flesh. In quick, angry movements, she tore
the gloves from her hands and threw them to the floor.
John's heart nearly broke for her at that moment. He
knew she didn't want his pity, but by God, how could he not
give it, watching her fall apart in front of him.
"Sometimes I want to go home so badly I could scream,"
she said fiercely, staring at the floor, her fists clenched
against her stomach.
"Melissa, come sit by me," John said, walking over to
the settee. She looked at him uncertainly, then joined him
and sat, very much like a petulant child. John slowly took
off his gloves and placed them between them on the
settee. "Now, give me your hand."
She looked up at him, and he nearly got lost in those
magnificent eyes of hers, still shining from her brief bout
of crying. Instead of giving him her hand, she clenched her
fingers tighter in her lap and gave her gloves, still lying
on the floor, a look of longing. Taking a shuddering
breath, she said, "I wasn't allowed to take my gloves off
except to bathe and at night. And no one was ever allowed
to touch me without wearing them." She shook her head and
fresh tears fell.
He laid his hand, palm up, in the space between them.
She looked down at her hands for a long moment before
finally, and with great hesitation, laying her palm on his.
Her hand was small and cool, and he could feel slight
tremors as he closed his fingers slowly 'round hers.
John watched her face, ready to withdraw if he saw any
fear in her eyes. All he saw, though, was wonder, and
something inside him gave a sharp, almost painful tug. She
looked up at him, then back to where their hands were still
"It's so warm. And soft," she said. Then her brow
furrowed, and she lifted his hand up as if inspecting it.
With the index finger of her other hand, she trailed her
fingertip across the calluses in his palm.
"From riding," he said gruffly, agonizingly aware that
her touch was beginning to physically affect him in a way
that was completely unexpected. How could her moving her
finger across his palm be so incredibly erotic? He wanted
to jerk his hand from her grasp, but he knew if he did, he
would only frighten her more. So instead, he gritted his
teeth together and prayed his body would stop betraying
him. Unfortunately, the more he thought about how he didn't
want his body to respond, the more it did. When she moved
her thumb across his wrist, he became achingly aroused, and
he let out a strained laugh and slowly withdrew his hand
from her curious grasp. It was monstrous that he should
react to her so, that he would allow his mind to picture
her in his bed, exploring his body the way she was
exploring his hand.
Bloody, bloody hell.
"Yes?" he choked out, moving slightly away from her.
"Would you allow me to kiss you? I..." Her cheeks turned
a vivid red. "Just to see what it is like and so that I'm
not such a ninny if a man does try to kiss me. I know it's
a lot to ask, but I don't want to make a fool of myself
when the time comes. Is it very revolting?"
Dear God, why are you doing this to me? Is this a test?
Because I fear I'm going to fail it. Sorry.
"Kissing is not revolting. Not with someone you're
attracted to, at least."
"Oh. Then it shouldn't be too revolting with you. I do
John swallowed and gave her a strained smile. "No, it
shouldn't be too revolting, but I don't think...that is to
say..." She kept looking at him with wide eyes, her mouth
slightly open, her lips full and delicious and—oh,
Lord, he thought, I am doomed.