The Earl's Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley
Fleeing her lecherous, tyrannical stepbrother’s guardianship, Marianne Grant has little choice but to try and conceal herself in a household which wants a governess to teach a young girl ladylike ways. Arriving at the Earl of Kingswood’s household to care for his niece, she’s distressed to find the Earl, Ash, is of an age with her stepbrother and shares at least some of the same habits. Hiding under his nose may prove to be impossible, especially since from the beginning she’s thrown into his company as she attempts to mediate between Ash and the widowed former countess.
Marianne’s plight was a sobering reminder of just how utterly powerless a woman was in the Regency era (and still is, in many parts of the world). She literally had no choice about remaining in her stepbrother’s household because as her legal guardian, she had no recourse under the law to escape him until she came of age. Kept pampered and sheltered by her mother and stepfather, she had a very rude awakening and had to learn to fend for herself quickly, or suffer an extremely distasteful fate.
Ash in many ways has to grow up even faster than Marianne, though he’s already got a few years on her. Raised by his father to be relieved not to have the responsibilities of the earldom on his shoulders, his cousin’s death means he has no choice but to step up to the plate as he comes to see just how many people are dependent on him. His cousin’s widow is no help whatsoever, so discovering that the new governess apparently has quite a wealth of knowledge about how to run a household and estate. It takes him a while to start wondering exactly where she acquired that knowledge, but once he does start, he’s too intrigued to stop digging, unaware that his efforts may be endangering the woman he’s falling in love with.
Ash and Marianne have different problems, and Ash’s self-absorption contrasts beautifully with Marianne’s genuine terror, right up until he discovers what she’s really up against and realizes his issues are nothing in comparison to what she’s facing. His outrage over the injustice of her situation comes across as very believable and his desire to help somehow makes up for the shallowness of his character to that point, as it’s evident he was acting out of ignorance.
Catherine Tinley writes characters who feel real and relatable, and her historical settings are solidly researched and believable, with real stakes and consequences her characters must face. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of her books I’ve read so far and this one is no different. Five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from the author.