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It’s 1742, on a British ship bound for Carolina. A young boy is found stowed away—a serious offense, punishable by death. Trying to escape the seamen, his eyes meet those of one of the passengers, Lord Adrian Beaumont, and a flash of something (recognition?) passes between them. The boy climbs on the ship’s railing, preferring to jump to certain death in the roiling waves than be beaten and killed by the ship’s crew. As he hesitates, he’s suddenly pulled from the railing. Under threat of sword, the captain exchanges payment for the boy’s passage, along with papers making the boy an indentured servant for five years. It’s only later, in the Lord’s cabin, that the young boy finds his secret has been discovered by Lord Beaumont: that he’s really a girl.
So begins My Lord Beaumont by Madris DePasture. The story details the relationship between Danielle (Danny) Cooper and Nicholas Adrian Beaumont, the third son of the Duke of Remming. At first, Adrian takes Danny under his wing simply to save her. As time goes on, he’s charmed by her attitude and perspective on life, and finds himself drawn to her as a person. The problem is, he has a hard time overcoming the prejudices and views that separate the classes. Danny appears to be poor, therefore she must be a liar and thief. She’s lived on the streets, therefore she must be knowledgeable of men. He believes this last of her, even though her abject fear of sex is obvious. Adrian feels an underlying innocence, but he doesn’t understand or know how to deal with it. Or truly believe it.
Danny recognizes Lord Beaumont the moment their eyes meet, although she’s totally shocked when he rescues her. Being forced into indentured servitude infuriates her, but she tries her best to please Adrian. She gladly continues the charade of being a boy while on board ship, both because it’s what she’s familiar with and because Adrian points out the problems she’ll encounter with the ship’s crew if they discover a girl of her class is among them. What she finds harder and harder to handle is her growing feeling for Adrian. She had loved him in her dreams before he saved her, and as they spend time together the feelings coalesce into real love. However, she knows that he will sell her papers when they reach Carolina, because Adrian is going to the Colonies to be married.
My Lord Beaumont is staged in roughly three segments: on the ship, traveling from Spanish Florida to Georgia after the ship sinks, and in Carolina. Although Adrian’s behavior toward Danny becomes softer, he continues to let class distinctions dictate his attitudes throughout the book. By the same token, I thought Danny gave her trust to Adrian rather quickly. But, they’re well-suited in that they each give as good as they get. There are several scraps of information tossed out that never get cleared up, and that was bothersome to me, but all in all, this was an enjoyable book.