When Meriel Hathaway is turned away without references from her first post as a governess, she has nowhere to turn. She lost her job for slapping her bratty charge after he poured ink all over her hair. Now, Meriel’s freakishly blue locks leave her few options for employment. Therefore, when handsome prankster Lord Farr approaches Meriel with an unusual gig–impersonating a castle ghost, the infamous, blue-skinned, blue-gowned, blue-haired “Lady Blue”–she cannot refuse his proposition.
There are some tangles in their plan, of course: Lord Farr’s plot is intended to scare the woman he loves, the highly superstitious and very beautiful Beatrix, away from marrying his cousin Rex. The fact that Meriel herself is in love with Lord Farr makes furthering his scheme an uncomfortable endeavor. But what choice does she have? At least it gives her the chance to spend days and days traveling alone with him to the castle in York that she’s destined to haunt…
Lady Blue had potential: its premise is one of the most original I have seen. How many books are narrated from the point of view of a fake Gothic spectre? I anticipated delicious descriptions of the duplicitous pair hiding out in an abandoned wing of the castle by day and rattling chains and haunting the insufferable Beatrix by night. That book would have been a fascinating manipulation of Gothic tropes while giving the protagonists ample opportunity to fall in love.
Unfortunately, Zabrina Faire instead puts her dim-witted heroine in danger as often as possible so the hero can rescue her, writes a pointless and seemingly interminable circus-freak subplot, and adds a extraneous jewelry theft for good measure. With all this pointless activity going on, poor Meriel never even gets to appear as Lady Blue. Therefore, we are robbed of a great story, learn next to nothing about the shallow Beatrix, and see no reason for Lord Farr to fall out of love with his Incomparable in favor of his blue-haired accomplice.
Worse, the romance is limped, sensuality is non-existant, and the protagonists’ relationship is underdeveloped. We must take the author’s word that Lord Farr and Meriel have great chemistry on the road to York (planting the seeds for their future love), for these scenes are all “tell” and no “show.”
I finished Lady Blue with a sense of profound disappointment. If only someone with imagination, a better grasp of plotting, and the ability to skillfully manipulate Gothic tropes had tackled Faire’s premise! Victoria Holt or Barbara Michaels could have made a masterpiece. Instead, Lady Blue stagnates, conveying all the warmth, imagination, and sensuality of a (blue-tinted) corpse.