Melissa Atwell is twenty-three years old and hasn't left her suite of rooms in her home in Bamburgh since she was five. Melissa's father kept her a virtual prisoner in her rooms for fear of her catching something and dying. Oh, she had plenty of tutors and governesses, and lessons in all the proper etiquette one would need to navigate a London Season successfully, all within the confines of her room. Whenever her father would visit her he always wore gloves, her maid always wore gloves and made the barest contact necessary to assist Melissa. In reality she was locked away so that her true father would never learn of her.
Melissa is very happy in her life and she has no idea that she is a prisoner in her own home, until her father dies and her uncle, the Earl of Braddock comes to take her to his home, and to get her ready for the upcoming Season. The pity he and his son John show her make Melissa realize that she is different from everyone else. She has a hard time being around people, and she cringes whenever someone tries to touch her, even if just to take her hand.
Melissa's joy and wonder over every new experience, even falling into mud and getting dirty was a pleasure to watch. It makes you realize just how much we take for granted every day. Braddock accidentally discovers that Melissa's true father is a duke and when he informs Melissa that she is illegitimate it comes as no surprise to her as she knew her father wasn't her father. She is delighted to learn that she has a half-sister - at least she is delighted until Braddock and John inform her that no one can ever know she is illegitimate or no man will want to marry her. Melissa doesn't fully understand this logic but, she accepts it. It isn't until her two new “friends” start discussing old gossip that the veil is lifted from Melissa's eyes and she fully comprehends the gravity of her situation; that not only will no respectable man offer for her, but she would lose her friends as well. I felt so bad for Melissa at this point when the ugly truth intruded into her world and took away her ability to find joy in the smallest things.
I have not mentioned Melissa's love interest yet because this story truly is about Melissa. After her revelation about her circumstances she does accept the first man that offers for her, even though she does not love him. She accepts this man simply because the man she loves tells her time and again that they cannot be together, and she truly believes that it is because of the circumstances of her birth as she is never told otherwise. All the time she was engaged to this other man, no announcement is made, nor are papers signed, as the two get to know one another, and every time they were together and he corrected her or felt shame over her, my heart went out to her.
Melissa's love interest, of course, is just a dolt, who cannot tell her how he feels until it is almost too late, but he was the one who brightened her spirits every time she got down, and the one who helped her overcome the fears that had been ingrained into her since she was a child. Melissa was a brave heroine who faced her fears and overcame them with the help of the one who was always by her side.
Ms. Goodger has written another incredible story that will stick with me. Put The Mad Lord's Daughter on your summer reading list, it is a definite keeper. I can't wait to read Ms. Goodger's next book.
Reviewed by: Valarie Pelissero