I remember being seventeen years old and recommending this book to a friend because “it has lots of different kinds of sex in it”. This is probably something of an odd trait to tout, and yet, it’s a lot of what sticks with me out of Lady Sophia’s Lover. That’s not to say that the plot and characters aren’t engaging — they are — but Kleypas somewhat pushes the norm for eroticism in historical romances here, and I say, bless her for it.
Sophia is a woman fallen both from grace and circumstance, and she’s looking for revenge. Born the daughter of a viscount and orphaned in her youth, Sophia only barely managed to keep her head above water by entering the household of a distant relative. Her brother wasn’t so fortunate, and got trapped in a life of crime in London, eventually sentenced to a prison hulk for his part in a highway robbery. The man responsible for his sentence and thus, in Sophia’s eyes, his death? Sir Ross Cannon, head of the Bow Street Runners. Sophia concocts a plan to bring the famously virtuous magistrate down, which hinges on seducing him and then embroiling him in scandal. She presents herself as an employee, and against his better judgment, he agrees to let her work as his assistant. Heat smoulders between them from their first meeting — but, as is the case when you’re headed for a HEA, Sophia’s heart gets overinvolved. She discovers that Ross is not at all the heartless tyrant she’d imagined, that he’s done a lot of work as a reformer, and it rather dampens her desire for vengeance. For his part, Ross is utterly entranced by the charming woman who has stepped in and rather ruthlessly organised his life, adding all the little domestic touches that he’d been missing. A widower, Ross rediscovers love and newly discovers real passion with Sophia.
I don’t know that I’ve felt this way about this book in the past, but on this re-read, I was sort of wishing for more of the revenge angle. Kleypas drops it pretty quickly. Honestly, Sophia’s heart never really seems in it, even at the beginning. There’s always a hesitation, and it rather lowers the stakes. This is one case, however, where I can at least believe the oddity of a woman choosing to insinuate herself into a man’s house in order to ruin him (unlike, say, The Rake, where it strains credulity) — Sophia clearly has nothing left to lose, so it’s not quite such a strange step for her to take. The twists that come later in the book are handled deftly and are definitely out of the norm as well.
This is a solid historical romance. If the circumstances of Sophia and Ross’s situation are improbable, the emotions are portrayed quite believably, and the sex sizzles. As always, I appreciate Kleypas’s willingness to step outside the usual class boundaries for historical romance. Lady Sophia’s Lover isn’t an all-time favourite, but it’s a book I always enjoy coming back to.