Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick

GENRE: historical romance/mystery

The Earl of St. Merryn needs a woman. His intentions are purely practical - he simply wants someone sensible and suitably lovely to pose as his betrothed for a few weeks among polite society. He has his own agenda to pursue, and a false fiancee will keep the husband-hunters at bay while he goes about his business. The easiest solution is to hire a paid companion. However, finding the right candidate proves more of a challenge than he expected - until he encounters Miss Elenora Lodge. Her dowdy attire and pinned-up hair cannot hide her fine figure and the fire in her golden eyes. And her unfortunate circumstances, and dreams of a life of independence, make the Earl's generous offer undeniably appealing.

But Elenora is unsure what this masquerade might entail. For St. Merryn is clearly hiding a secret or two, and things seem oddly amiss in his gloomy Rain Street home. She is soon to discover that his secrets are even darker than his decor, and that this lark will be a far more dangerous adventure than she's been led to believe. And Arthur, Earl of St. Merryn, is making a discovery as well: that the meek and mild companion he'd initially envisioned has become, in reality, a partner in his quest to catch a killer - and an outspoken belle of the ball who stirs a wild passion in his practical heart.

Elenora Lodge, a young lady who had a home, money and a fiancĂ©e, finds herself without all of the mentioned things after her stepfather’s demise. Determined not to let anything crush her, she becomes a paid companion to earn money and save it to open her own business one day. Then, there is Arthur, Earl of St. Merryn, ever practical and not caring much for emotions, who decides that, after the fiasco including his runaway fiancĂ©, he will simply not bother, so he decides to hire a woman to pose as his betrothed, allowing him to blind the society and run an important investigation concerning his uncle’s murder.

Elenora’s and Arthur’s paths cross. As they are both intelligent and practical, they find it easy to pretend they are a couple, but the problem arises when the killer Arthur is after tries to use Elenora to get to Arthur, and most importantly when, despite all their careful planning and logical reasoning, Elenora and Arthur start to become attracted to each other.

I enjoyed the characters of Elenora and Arthur. I enjoyed their intelligence and practicality, which hindered them in expressing love, creating some intense and slightly awkward moments between them. The villain of the book is quite intriguing, as he is also a highly intelligent individual. The problem is that he uses all of his genius for the wrong cause, which makes him go quite wild and crazy towards the ending, providing the reader with a very suspensful finale. The rest of the characters were stock characters and I did not much care for them, but I must admit they helped put the story together in a nice, rounded way.

The mystery is the focal point of the novel. It is actually related to the arcane arts, something that interested the late Regency society, but especially Victorian society (I am not exactly sure when exactly the novel is set, but it is definitely the first half of the 19th century). It had a bit of an Indiana-Jones-meets-Victorian-England feel to it, and as I enjoy such mysteries, I had great fun reading about it and trying to guess who the killer might be and (which was crucial) whether he would succeed in achieving his goal or not. I loved the way Elenora and Arthur tried to apply good, sound logic to the case and how they worked as a team. Arthur had a high regard for Elenora, despite her gender, and took into consideration everything she suggested.

As for the romance, I must admit that it was slightly in the background. Although Amanda Quick is famous for creating romantic adventures, The Paid Companion puts more stress on mystery than on romance. While I truly enjoyed the mystery, I found myself missing the romance, mostly because there was not nearly enough character development reserved for Arthur and Elenora in this regard. Quick usually puts a lot of stress on her characters’ emotions evolving and turning into love, and she tries to make it believable. She definitely managed to create friendship between Arthur and Elenora, a friendship that was based on understanding and mutual respect, but the lust that first burst between the two characters turned a bit too quickly into love. The mystery shaded that delightful development from lust to regard, and then to love. This is my main complaint.

All in all, this was a delightful read and fans of Amanda Quick, and of historical romances featuring mysteries will definitely find enjoyment in reading this book.

: / (3.5 stars)


Jo K said...

This book seems a little different than other Quick's novels. I would enjoy the suspense you mention and I would miss character development in terms of romance, also. Great review!

Jan von Harz said...

I have never read a Quick novel, but I love a good mystery. Too bad the romance aspect sort of fizzled. Great review though!

Blodeuedd said...

I have read a few of her books and liked them. Well back when I read them at least.
But more if you miss the romance then I am sure I would do the same

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I think I would definitely miss the romance as the mystery would not be enough to satisfy me especially as I associate Amanda Quick with romances. I do think I would like both Elenora and Arthur though, which would be great and of course I love Indiana Jones!