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The Beggarmaid by Leslie-Anne McLeod is a charming tale about two members of the ton. One well respected, the other considered scandalous. Normally in these stories, it's the heroine who is above reproach and the gentleman who's in need of rehabilitation, but not this time. That’s the twist Ms. McLeod has written, and it works just fine.
When the Marquess of Wessington meets Miss Iphigenia Brierley at Lady Hanwood’s party, he is immediately intrigued. She’s surrounded by a gaggle of young men, all vying for her attention, but seems unaffected by any of them. In her second season, she has no prospects due to her rumored behavior, which is unconventional, to say the least.
He is recently returned from travels abroad. Having left society two years earlier a legend, he's come back an even greater one. When he tells Lady Genia during a stolen waltz that he has heard about her, she politely inquires if all he heard was good. No, he tells her, but “…all good is, after all, very dull.” So sets the stage for their relationship.
It isn’t that Lady Genia cares nothing for the rules of society. It's just that she has been forced to break them in order to have any life at all. Her family—her father, the Earl of Elmsall, and her two brothers—have been amazingly careless and stupid, reducing the family to near poverty. The actions she resorts to, which provide meager cash and some diversion, are also what cause her disgrace. She knows well that there is little chance she will be offered for, but she sees little else to do.
Wessington is in a position to flaunt some of society’s strictures. And he has a desire for adventure that rivals Genia’s. However, he has the wherewithal to provide excitement without being censured. In this they form a bond. When he introduces his sister to Genia and they become fast friends, he gets the opportunity to know her better. Added to the mix is Wess’ best friend, Lord Lanard, who has taken Genia under his wing as much as he can.
It is through his sister’s friendship that Wess discovers Genia’s goodness as well as the extent of her need. This knowledge, along with the interest he felt from the very beginning, prompts him to ask for her hand. The desire to escape a hopeless environment and to experience adventure as Wessington has, prompts her to accept. She is convinced it is a loveless match. The fact that she has so little to bring to him and that he provides so much, supplies the title of the book. In the end she discovers that the gift of love balances everything.
I enjoyed The Beggarmaid. Along with Genia and Wess, there is a host of supporting characters, all of whom are full and true, but which don’t detract from the relationship developing between the hero and heroine. The vocabulary reflects the time period, which once in awhile caused me to step back and re-read a sentence, but which ultimately added to the flavor of the story.