This was an ARC from NetGalley.
Everything a Lady Is Not, the first book in Sawyer North’s Bow Street Beaus series, is a sweet Regency romance with a very classic, almost Jane Austen-like feel. It tells the story of Margaret (aka Lucy Locket), a young woman rescued and raised by a highwayman following a robbery gone wrong. As the story opens, she’s caught by an officer, Henry Beaumont, after participating in a heist. Lucy makes a deal with Henry involving a locket she wants to return to its owner, and it’s through this deed that she comes back to high society after reuniting with her grandmother.
The rest of the novel follows a couple of fun romance tropes: the “you must marry before this date or lose your inheritance” condition, and a fish out of water story with shades of Pygmalion. Lucy’s grandmother hires Henry, who although of noble birth is in financial straits, to prepare the young woman’s entry into society. This must be done quickly, since Lucy must marry before her twenty-first birthday in order to claim a large inheritance left by her grandfather. The resulting battle of wills is very entertaining, since Lucy is determined not to go quietly into high society, especially when that society seems determined to bring her down and remind her of her unconventional upbringing at every turn. Henry, for his part, has his own demons to wrestle with as he tries to prevent falling in love with Lucy.
You’ll enjoy this novel if you like witty dialogue and a fast-paced story. The characters are very compelling, especially Henry, and we get glimpses of who some of the future Bow Street Beaus might be; I, for one, hope Steadman -the noble turned highwayman who has raised Lucy- gets his own story. This story has a low heat level, with the romance not going beyond a couple of heated kisses, so if you’re used to the steamier side of Regency, you might find this one lacking in that department. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely, and I’ll be looking out for the next books in the series.