I've been reading a lot of Regencies lately where the heroine dresses as a man and excels in those endeavors that would have been strictly a man's domain simply because the heroine wants to be the son her father never had. This just drives me insane and will turn me off a book quicker than anything. However, in Lord Gray's List author Maggie Robinson gives a valid reason for her heroine Evie Ramsey to be dressed as a man, and I was fine with it in this instance.
Evie's father is a gambler and she has lived her whole life at the whim of the cards. There have been more lean times than fat but, Evie has always managed to make meager ends meet. Her father's health and mental faculties are failing, and during his last card game her father won a newspaper, The London List. With him no longer able to gamble and with no other income, Evie starts publishing the paper once a week, making sensational headlines about the peccadilloes of the members of the ton, and most especially those of Lord Benton Gray, whom she has dubbed “The Jane Street Jackanapes”.
Ben Gray is tired of being the headliner every Tuesday when The London List comes out, and decides to confront the publisher. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that the only woman he has ever truly loved is helming the printing press and the one who is responsible for dragging his name through the mud. Years ago, Evie's father took a liking to the young Ben and brought him home where he met Evie. Ben and Evie fell in love during his stay and Evie broke Ben's heart when he proposed. Now, needing to shut the paper down, Ben buys it from Evie's addled father. Evie, being Evie (read manipulative) prints an editorial that has the masses arriving on Ben's doorstep to demand Lord Gray reconsider.
Ben is a good guy and a great hero. Despite Evie's jabs at him through the paper, he is not the jackanapes she believes. He rolls up his sleeves and helps Evie with the paper, engaging in trade, something the aristocracy looks down on. When she starts getting threatening letters he hires a printer to help with the load and offers furniture from his own home for the apartment above the office. He not only hires every man who showed up to interview to help unload the furniture, he ends up hiring two brothers to run the printing press, and pays for them to travel to their mother's house for Christmas. He routinely gives money away to those who need it, and yet, despite everything that Evie sees Ben do, she never apologizes to him for her vilification in the paper.
Evie dresses as a man while she is running the paper because she knows that a man is less likely to be molested, and she does it for safety reasons. Oh, she enjoys the freedom of movement and the lower cost that men's garments afford her but, when she goes home to visit with her father, she always changes. Her father never knows that Evie is the one who is actually running the paper. This is why I was okay with Evie dressing as a man.
We do know that Evie turned down Ben's original proposal because she did not want a gambler for a husband, having already lived the high and low times with her father. What we don't get is resolution between Ben and Evie over that event as it is never discussed, and I wanted that resolution. We know that Ben and Evie have been in love with one another for the last ten years because we are told that, and we do see Ben re-falling in love with Evie during the time they work together. However, we don't really see that reciprocated in Evie, and I couldn't quite believe her when she said “I love you” to him.
Despite my semi-dislike of Evie I enjoyed Lord Gray's List simply because of Ben. He is the reason I kept turning the pages, and I could have wished for a better heroine for him. Luckily that won't stop me from recommending Lord Gray's List as a fun little romance.
Reviewed by: Valarie Pelissero