Jolie Chesney owns and publishes the Avon Journal in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Jo took over the management of the newspaper after the death of her husband, John, to save the paper from its decline and as a measure of grief therapy for herself. In doing so, Jo realizes that she loves taking an active role as publisher and proprietor, a role that most women of the day would not undertake at all. The newspaper is flourishing under her care, especially since the addition of a column called London Life, that was the brainchild of her dear friend and confidante, Lady Chloe Webberley. Chloe, a widow herself, resides in London and is an integral part of London’s social scene. Who better to write a gossip column than Chloe? And so she does, under the guise of Lady Tellall, with no one knowing her true identity except for Jo.
The day Waldo Bowman walks into the offices of the Journal seeking the publisher to lodge a complaint, he finds Jo disheveled with ink stains on her fingers, and he is surprised to find out the publisher is a woman. Waldo is outraged by comments written about him in London Life and demands to know the identity of Lady Tellall. Jo is not about to reveal her source or betray her friend; Waldo threatens litigation that gets Jo’s back up even more. Waldo warns her not to print anything else he considers derogatory about him and leaves, only to return a few minutes later to ask Jo to attend a party with him tomorrow night for the theater, whereupon Jo immediately tells him not to waste his charm on her since she is immune.
That very night at home, Jo receives a letter from one of Chloe’s friends, Lady Langston, asking if she knows anything about the whereabouts of Chloe. It seems that Chloe has disappeared and no one knows where she is, including her servants, but surely Jo knows since they are so close. Jo, of course, had no idea that Chloe was missing, but realizes that her Lady Tellall columns have not arrived either. Remembering that a letter from Chloe had arrived earlier that morning at the newspaper office and she had put it aside to read later, Chloe returns to the office and is extremely worried when Chloe’s only words are that Jo should be careful and that she may be in mortal danger. Also, Chloe says that all will be revealed in her diary.
Now very much concerned for her friend, Jo decides to set out for London with her Aunt Daventry to accompany her, so that she can find out as much as she can about her friend’s disappearance. Along the way, Jo runs into Waldo Bowman, as well as trouble of her own, and soon she is seeking Waldo’s aid in more ways than one. Waldo, who is very much attracted to the beautiful redhead, is more than willing to help, while Jo, even though recognizing the athletic good looks of her rescuer, accepts his help reluctantly.
For those of you who may feel that too much already has been revealed in this review, have no fear. This is only the beginning of this delightful story written by Elizabeth Thornton. There is so much more to come—child abuse, marital deception, a wonderful mystery surrounding Chloe, and of course, a challenging and lusty romance. Ms. Thornton’s characters fairly jump off the page and come to life, and best of all, even though the timeframe is nearly two centuries ago, they are written with the same cares, concerns, and feelings of their counterparts today; in other words, they seem real. Shady Lady is a book to be savored and kept for later, to be read over and over again.