‘Lady Maybe’: Historical Romance at its Best
February 22, 2017
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Imagine being in a terrible carriage accident along the side of a road. When you regain consciousness, you hold a wedding ring in your hand and when rescued are referred to as Lady Marianna. You cannot remember who you are nor what happened, but go along with it, resting in a large house with an enjoyable and convenient staff. Suddenly, you realize: you are not Lady Marianna. What do you do?
This is the stressful situation faced by Hannah Rogers, a single mother in the midst of poverty in 1800s England in Julie Klassen’s novel Lady Maybe. After agreeing to accompany her former boss, Lady Marianna, on a trip in order to earn the extra money needed to pay off a debt, Hannah is part of a horrible carriage accident which leaves her with a broken arm and a temporarily absent memory.
Mariana’s husband, Sir John, is rendered comatose, and Marianna herself is pronounced dead, her body missing. Hannah becomes caught in a lie, although by accident, wanting to tell the truth but in need of money to receive her baby from the clutches of her devious ex-landlady. She convinces herself that she will tell the truth and disappear when she can, yet the opportunity does not arise.
Hannah soon finds herself in a love triangle between Sir John and his own solicitor, James Lowden, unsure of for whom she may have feelings and whom she can trust with her secret.
Klassen provides a fascinating cast of characters, all with distinct personalities and separate agendas. Hannah’s own personality is not clearly introduced at first, yet the reader is allowed the chance to get to know her as a protagonist as the beginning portion of the story progresses. Although she has done a seemingly terrible thing, the reader begins to sympathize with her as the reality of her situation is further revealed, and is able to experience Hannah’s emotions along with her through distinguished detail of thoughts and feelings.
The two main love interests, James and Sir John, are both quite problematic yet reasonable choices at the same time. James is educated and intelligent yet is easily overwhelmed by passion and desire. Sir John, on the other hand, is strong both physically and mentally, and has not led an enjoyable marriage as of recent, yet is unusually kind to Hannah.
Klessen also provides an entertaining list of minor characters, including Hannah’s admirer back home, Freddie, and the delightful housekeeper, Mrs. Turrill. These characters greatly contribute to the story, acting partially as an audience to the issues faced in the plot while also adding to the drama.
The novel is a classic exhibition of historical drama, engaging the reader fully with a new piece of information nearly every chapter. The reader becomes engrossed in the lives of the characters, mainly Hannah, and is constantly second-guessing their own theories as to what might happen next. Although the ending may seem predictable, the plot is a rollercoaster and the end itself remains out of sight as the circumstances are constantly in turmoil.
The concept alone is unique, already providing an atmosphere different from your average historical romance, and Klassen has made the absolute most of it. Nearly everything that can go wrong does, and somehow it all works out in the end. I have not read many romances myself, but this is without a doubt very well-written. It is exceptional, tense, and utterly riveting, creating a world the reader may never want to leave yet still managing to satisfy them in the end.