Carla Kelly's "The Lady's Companion"

The Lady's Companion - Carla Kelly


Nice story about an aristocratic woman who has to find a job as a companion or governess because her father has gambled away everything to the point that he and his daughter can no longer maintain a house and have to move in with his sister. The heroine, Susan, finds a position as companion to an old lady who actually wants nothing to do with her, so Susan has her work cut out for her. Fortunately for her, she is a very attractive female and the lady's bailiff, who is in some ways almost a son to the old lady, falls in love with her very quickly. This was one aspect of the story I didn't like very much - there is too much emphasis on the heroine's beauty and it feels as if that is all that David, the bailiff and hero of the story, notices at first.  


The "old" lady is definitely the most interesting character in the book, but with some serious flaws in her characterization. I put "old" in quotation marks because she is only one year older than me, but there is no way I could relate to her - she is completely broken-down physically, with a weak heart, frail bones and limited range of motion. More like a 90-year old than a 65-year old!  The author wrote the book when she was in her forties - maybe she just couldn't imagine a typical 65-year old as being healthy and fit. But the lady has to be near death for the purposes of the plot, while at the same time she has to be young enough to have a son who was fairly young at the time of the Battle of Waterloo (the story takes place 5 years after the battle of Waterloo). This aspect of the book didn't quite work. 


I have to commend the author for dealing with the issue of class differences in Regency England in a realistic way. Susan, the heroine, is from an aristocratic family, while the hero David is a foundling raised in a workhouse. When Susan announces to her family that she will marry David, they cast her out, but this is no great loss to her, fortunately, because her father is a wastrel and her aunt doesn't care about her at all. 


The last chapters of the book are intensely emotional, with the author pulling out all of the dramatic stops that she could think of. It was a bit over the top for me, but other readers have evidently liked it, considering the book's high ratings.