Not Quite a Wife, by Mary Jo Putney (review)

August 14, 2014 Book Reviews 8 ★★★★

Not Quite a Wife, by Mary Jo Putney (review)Not Quite a Wife Series: Lost Lords #6
on August 26, 2014
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Also in this series: Sometimes a Rogue, Not Always a Saint

Marry in haste, repent at leisure. James, Lord Kirkland, owns a shipping fleet, half a London gaming house, and is a ruthlessly effective spymaster. He is seldom self-indulgent... except when it comes to the gentle, indomitable beauty who was once his wife.

Laurel Herbert gave James her heart as an innocent young girl--until she saw him perform an act of shocking violence before her very eyes. That night she left her husband, and he let her go without a word of protest.

Now, ten years later, a chance encounter turns passionate, with consequences that cannot be ignored. But as they try to rebuild what was broken, they must face common enemies and a very uncommon love. . .


Not Quite a Wife is book six in the Lost Lords series featuring six (so far) rather unconventional British gentlemen (most of them lords, to justify the title) who attended the Westerfield Academy, a school for boys of “good breeding and bad behavior.” Kirkland, the hero of this book, appears in all the first five books to one degree or another, and I’ve been eagerly waiting for his book. He’s a complicated man with a lot of pain in his past, and now I finally know why.

Putney draws you in, involving you in her characters’ lives, thoughts, and feelings until you really care what happens to them. That connection to the characters is one of the biggest strengths of Not Quite A Wife, along with Putney’s characteristic attention to historic detail. The plot, on the other hand, is unusually predictable for a Putney romance. . . but I didn’t really care, since I was already invested in Kirkland and Laurel by the time I figured that out. There’s a lot of pain between them, and a lot of distrust on Laurel’s part. James has been willing to let her live her life independently, until a bout of malaria and a mugging land him unconscious in the clinic that Laurel runs with her brother Daniel, a doctor. When they’re brought together a second time a few months later, James decides to press for a reconciliation, and Laurel reluctantly agrees.

I appreciated Putney’s inclusion of a shelter for battered women, which with the clinic is another pet project of Laurel’s during the couple’s decade of separation. Similar charitable shelters — for battered or destitute women and their children, or for former prostitutes — were in fact coming into being at the time, often started and run by women of deep faith, and it’s very characteristic of Laurel that she would start one.

In fact, Laurel’s Christian faith is an important part of her personality and to some extent drives the plot. Putney manages to make this work without coming off as preachy; it shouldn’t bother you even if you normally avoid Christian fiction. Laurel does have one significant spiritual moment or experience, which some readers may find unbelievable and overly-convenient. Since I’ve had a similar experience (though not under such dramatic circumstances!), it rang completely true for me.

There were a few scenes that felt a little “off” to me. Kirkland is unusually forthright and open with his friends once he and Laurel are back in the same house. That didn’t seem consistent with his character; up until now he’s been pretty reticent about it (in the past five books.) Furthermore, talking about relationships was not the norm for British gentleman of the period – or so I’ve always understood. Talking about women in general, or about their mistresses, yes. Talking about their wives in a way that might reveal – gasp! – that they love said wives? Absolutely Not Done. I can almost believe when Laurel and the other women are equally open (not to say blunt), but it still wouldn’t have been socially appropriate unless Laurel were already close friends with them.

One reconciliation scene between Laurel and Kirkland does seem a little too sudden and easy, given the strength of Laurel’s reservations about her husband. On the other hand, it also reflects Laurel’s growing maturity and stems in part from her faith, so I let it pass. There’s also a little surprise twist at the end which I didn’t see coming; I thought it was a little contrived and unnecessary, but it does contribute to the happily-ever-after.

Still, a predictable plot and a few scenes that don’t quite ring true are relatively minor drawbacks, though not what I expect from Mary Jo Putney. On the whole, though, Not Quite a Wife is an emotionally satisfying book and one I had a hard time putting down. I would have read it in one sitting if it hadn’t been 2:00 in the morning!

I thought this would be the last of the Lost Lords books, since each of the original six who appear or are mentioned in the first book have found love and married (not necessarily in that order!) But it turns out that Laurel’s brother Daniel, a major supporting character in this book, also attended the Westerfield Academy, so we’ll get at least one more. Not Always a Saint is projected to come out in September 2015. I’ll be ready and waiting!

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The Lost Lords Series in order:

  1. Loving a Lost Lord (Adam, Duke of Ashton, and Mariah Clarke)
  2. Never Less Than a Lady (Maj. Randall and Julia Bancroft)
  3. Nowhere Near Respectable (Damian MacKenzie and Lady Kiri Lawford)
  4. No Longer a Gentleman (Grey, Lord Wyndham and Cassie Fox)
  5. Sometimes a Rogue (Rob Carmichael and Sarah Clarke-Townsend) – review
  6. Not Quite a Wife (Lord Kirkland Laurel Herbert) – this review
  7. Not Always a Saint (Daniel Herbert and ??)




About Mary Jo Putney

Mary Jo Putney was born in Upstate New York and holds degrees in English Literature and Industrial Design from Syracuse University. She worked in the field of design until her first novel was published in 1987. Since then, she has written over forty books, mainly historical romances.

Ms. Putney’s novels are known for their emotional depth and for tackling unusal subjects for romance, including alcoholism, imprisonment, terminal illness, and domestic violence. Her books regularly feature on national bestseller lists. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award, Putney has won twice, for Dancing on the Wind and The Rake and the Reformer (later revised and expanded as The Rake. She is also the holder of several other awards, including the Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. Putney continues to write new stories for Kensington, but has reissued many of her backlist titles independently, including the Silk Trilogy and her bestselling Fallen Angels series.

She lives near Baltimore, Maryland.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Summer Vacation 2014

8 Responses to “Not Quite a Wife, by Mary Jo Putney (review)”

  1. Katherine P

    I had seen this book but I’ve never read any of Putney’s books so didn’t get it. I love the setup for the series and it sounds like the main characters in this one are unusual. I’ll have to look for the first one of the series. Thanks!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      The series is a little lighter (depth-wise, not content-wise) than her Fallen Angels series, which has some of my very favorite Putneys in it. But I’ve had a lot of fun with this series. I would advise reading them in order, though!

  2. Rita_h

    Lark, since there is a minor thread of Christian fiction in this series, would you say that the romance scenes are not explicit or overly done? Some historical fictions have frequent, explicit, borderline rape scenes, so I am just curious. Thanks in advance and glad you enjoyed this series!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Putney usually has some moderately explicit scenes, but they never feel gratuitous; they’re always integral to the character or relationship development. They’re not usually frequent, and they’re definitely not borderline rape. As for the Christian thread — it’s less that the books are Christian and more that Putney’s characters, like people in real life, sometimes are people of faith (of one sort or another), and their faith is an aspect of their character. She is just as respectful and straightforward regarding the beliefs of a half-Hindu character and a half-Chinese character in other books, for instance.

  3. samantha.1020

    I have been craving a good historical romance lately…I just haven’t taken the time to read one! This sounds like an author that I definitely need to try. Great review!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Putney, along with Mary Balogh, Lisa Kleypas, and Julia Quinn, is one of my absolute favorite historical romance authors. She usually works hard to get the historical details right, and she’s wonderful when it comes to characterization.