A Laird for the Governess by Catherine Tinley – a young woman travels to a remote Scottish island in this enjoyable historical romance

A Laird for the Governess by Catherine Tinley

A lovely Scottish island, an attractive governess and a quiet widowed Laird is a recipe for a wonderful historical novel, and talented Catherine Tinley has certainly delivered in this book. This is a book of unfair treatment for women, uncertainty, tragedy and regrets. It also depicts brilliantly a remote island that has a community that means everyone is valued, but where life can be challenging at the mercy of the elements and absentee landlords. Both the main characters Lydia Farnham and Alasdair MacDonald have secrets in their past which makes trust and romance difficult to achieve.

Being a governess in 1810 was not a secure job, and in Lydia’s case means that she has suffered as the result of unwanted advances from wealthy men who have either employed her or been associated with the household. Despite her attachment to the children in her charge and her undoubted skills as a teacher, she has been turned away repeatedly. The plight of unmarried women left without support in this period is well covered in literature; those from middle class backgrounds were especially vulnerable. Tinley has taken this theme and carefully placed the woman in question on an island many miles away from everything she knows and understands. She is aware that if she is dismissed from this job she will be many days travel away from London, and so the stakes are high for her in her new employment. The first sight of the Laird makes her anxious once more, but she knows little of history or why she has been summoned to the island. This is a most enjoyable novel, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.  

Lydia has been assured by the clever and intuitive employment agency owner  Mrs. Gray that she will be treated differently in Scotland, and that the salary will be generous to reflect the fact that it is so far from London. The child she will teach has not had any education and has physical problems. The household of Ardmore castle is truly welcoming, and she is assigned her own maid. When Alasdair encounters Lydia he is over whelmed by her appearance, but quickly remembers that he has had unfortunate experiences with a beautiful woman. It transpires that he is a devoted father to his only child, Mairead, and she is the focus of attention for the whole household, being carried around and humoured in her avoidance of being taught. When Lydia is given charge of the child, she makes lessons enjoyable, and begins to suspect that the little girl’s disability is capable of improvement. As the cycle of weddings and romances take place in the glorious setting of the islands, there seems to be much to love in the close-knit community. Lydia soon becomes aware of the problems of the islands, that there are those who are forced to leave as absentee landlords do not care for their tenants, and the sea provides a potentially dangerous element in islanders’ lives. The Laird meanwhile gradually becomes suspicious and a little jealous of Lydia’s relationship with her charge. He is also painfully aware of how attractive she is, and because his earlier experience of a beautiful woman who became unhappy with island life, fears that she will soon want to return to London, leaving both Mairead and him bereft. He struggles not to become too close to her, and Lydia is fearful of another unfair dismissal. It seems they can never be close, both painfully aware of the dangers of love.

I really enjoyed this book. Life on the island is well described, and the community is well described. A lot of research has obviously gone into describing island life at the time, as well as the varying weather that can become treacherous so quickly. The atmosphere that Tinley creates is truly enthralling, and the characters are so consistent and have real depth, even though their actual role may be relatively small. I recommend this book as an exciting read.    

Captivating the Cynical Earl by Catherine Tinley – a Regency novel of assumptions and discoveries

Captivating the Cynical Earl by Catherine Tinley 

Jack Beresford, the Earl of Hawkenden, is an enigma. Abandoned and ill treated as a child he has had to work hard to save his family’s fortunes since his abusive father’s death. The only other person he has had to confide in and share the burden with is his younger brother Tom. For years they have presented a united front to the world, now Tom has announced that he has contracted a speedy marriage to an unknown young woman. Jack is appalled, thinking the worst of a woman who has ensnared Tom, and when he believes that he sees her at an evening party, he waits until she is alone. Lady Cecily Thornhill is taken aback by his verbal attack, especially as she is not completely sure of the wisdom of her best friend Nell’s hasty marriage. Jack’s mistake preys on her mind as well as his when he realises that he has confronted the wrong woman. A small and unintentional house party forces all sorts of situations, realisations and revelations. 

This lively and well handled romantic novel set in the early Regency period contains some memorable characters. Drama and dialogue dominate this narrative of mutual misunderstandings. Jack is a character who is reluctant to express his true feelings; his tendency to overthink the motives of others leads him into lots of trouble. This is a carefully written and memorable novel of slow burning romance, which is special given that some of the characters almost believe that love has little place in marriage. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this novel. 

The book opens in March 1819 with Tom announcing to his elder brother Jack that he has recently got married. Jack is shocked and feels betrayed that in this most important decision Tom has not consulted him, not even told him. Meanwhile Cecily is worrying about her widowed mother’s financial state; while her guardian is sensible and generous, Lady Fanny Thornhill, Dowager Countess of Kingswood is light minded, extravagant and has had many affairs. Her ambitions for her only daughter mean that she is in London before the season properly begins, spending money they do not really have. Cecily is an attractive young woman who has a sense of responsibility as well as an interest in business affairs. When she encounters Jack she is definitely attracted to him, which makes his anger towards her feel even worse. Tom invites his new wife and her best friend Cecily to the hunting box, or relatively small house, Hazledene. Nell can now chaperon the unmarried Cecily, and it seems a good opportunity to assess their relationship. It is only when the stubborn Jack turns up with two friends that they realise that this will be an oppressively small place in which to stay, especially as it is filled with childhood memories for Jack. He is also fighting a strong attraction to Cecily, which conflicts directly with his intention to marry a woman simply to have an heir.  As time passes and local people get involved, the stress of proximity creates more drama and crisis within the complex relationships in the house.

This is a romance novel which brings up certain points about assumptions of men and women in relationships of the time. The setting, of a house in the country, is well drawn, so that the reader can visualise the place. I enjoyed reading this book with its well drawn characters, especially Cecily and Jack, with satisfying developments. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an uplifting historical romantic read.    

A Waltz with the Outspoken Governess by Catherine Tinley – an historical romance featuring a free thinking woman

A Waltz with the Outspoken Governess by Catherine Tinley

Set in 1810, this historical romance features a “woman with no plan to ever marry” at the age of twenty, sent to school by her loving father who has spent her childhood talking to her about books. I found this a lovely read, full of details about a difficult household situation. Moreover, Mary is a realistic, determined character who tries so hard to fit in for the sake of her father, but is compelled to address the assumptions about women being interested in books and having an opinion. Sir Nicholas is a well rounded character who is not immediately smitten by Mary; indeed thinking that she is a little dull, and is merely grateful that she is deflecting some of the difficulties of his sister’s visit. He is full of pride and somewhat unapproachable because he assumes it is his right to dominate the household, area, and especially his servants who he struggles to see as people. As is common in this sort of intelligent historical romance, it takes a woman who challenges his view of life to attract him. He has had his adventures in London, but he now feels able to merely follow obscure academic pursuits while others take the strain of life. Altogether this is an escapist read which I really enjoyed, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

The book opens with Mary getting into trouble with her teacher as she does not want to conform to expectations of ladylike behaviour. A sudden letter from her father’s housekeeper leads to Mary seeking a position near to where he is being held. Fortunately she encounters a remarkable agency with a business woman willing to take a risk on placing her in the right area. Meanwhile the very private Sir Nicholas is disturbed to hear that his sister is intending to bring her five children for an extended stay at his house. Adopting the policy of employing a full set of servants to distract them, Mary arrives with his Secretary, Bramber, to be an additional governess. She soon discovers that Nicholas’ sister, Mrs Susan Fenhurst, has an elderly governess who is desperate not to be replaced by a younger, more capable woman, despite the fact that she can no longer cope with the boisterous children. Keenly aware that she must retain her employment at the Hall in order to help her father, she tries to teach the children without openly challenging anyone. The second daughter, Beatrice, is actually attracted by more scholarly material, and it is in revealing this that compels Mary to announce that women can be clever “I believe it to be a myth when people say that women’s brains are less capable than men’s”. It is this sort of outburst that arouses Nicholas to take notice of the young woman in his household, and that notice soon goes beyond an admiration for her bravery.

I found this a really engaging read, with Nicholas a far from perfect hero, but who can be persuaded to go beyond humourous asides to actually take action. The romance element is well handled, and would not offend any delicate sensibilities. Mary is an interesting character, of necessity attractive, but confident in her beliefs. This is an intelligent, sometimes funny, always interesting historical romance, and is to be recommended to all those who enjoy this genre.       

Rags – to – Riches Wife by Catherine Tinley – An historical Romance with several surprises


This is a Regency historical romance with several twists. Jane Bailey is a lady’s maid, proud of her service to Lady Marianne Kingsford who featured in an earlier book by Tinley. Robert Kendal is a young man who effectively runs his elderly uncle’s estate. The two are thrown together in difficult and bewildering circumstances, and in this novel there are several twists and turns. The life of a servant is well reflected in this clever novel in which an educated and proud young woman is placed in a household in a way that she never expected. The development of a romance is a main part of the narrative, but also the element of a fish out of water, a daily realisation that roles are reversed. 


There is a lot of research evident in this novel, as the roles of servants, especially lady’s maid, is painstakingly explored. The life of a maid is far more complex than usually supposed, consisting of dressing and undressing her mistress through the changes of clothes suitable for the time of day, caring for her clothes by way of washing, mending and refurbishing, and making sure all her needs were met. The physical side of the work is well demonstrated as Jane’s hands take some time to recover from the washing and other irritants. The insecurity of employment of those in service is emphasised as even Jane, with her special link to Marianne, goes in fear of doing something to lose her post, or otherwise being put out of a job. There is also an interesting element of remembering an attack that  has affected Jane’s life, and may have an effect on her future ability to enjoy a relationship. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this multi layered book.


The book opens in 1800 with the death of Jane’s father. For Jane and her mother it begins a difficult time of poverty and the fortunate finding of a position in a wealthy household. After a point at which everything seems to be uncertain, even dangerous, their loyalty is rewarded. Jane’s mother is in charge as a housekeeper, while Jane becomes the personal maid for the mistress of a well off house. Meanwhile Robert is being dispatched to find the young woman with only the vaguest of instructions. It is not as easy as he expects, and there is additionally a very detailed and significant account of the journey they undertake together. Their arrival at the House involves encountering some of the characters that live there, as well as Jane’s confusion as to her status.


I found this a very readable book with a sure touch in revealing character, attraction, status anxiety and much more. The importance of the distinction between servants and those that they serve is well demonstrated. Jane’s insecurity is more about her concern for her role than her undoubted attraction to Robert. However, their growing relationship is beautifully drawn, and there are many surprises to be enjoyed on the way. This is a most enjoyable read and a fine example of a well researched historical romance novel.   

The Earl’s Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley – a wonderful historical romance

A romantic historical novel can be exciting and challenging, as well as comforting and enjoyable. Tinley’s novel is a great example of intelligent historical romanticism, where the characters are distinct, their motives as complex as they would be in life, and the plot is satisfactorily engaging. This novel not only draws the reader in, but maintains interest and has an ending that means the last part of the book is compelling. As a long term admirer of Georgette Heyer, I am reasonably well read in this type of book, and really enjoyed this beautifully written novel. I was therefore very happy to be asked to read and review this novel by an experienced and confident writer.

Marianne Grant must leave her home where she has been carefully brought up to expect a continued, comfortable life and an advantageous marriage. However, on the death of her  loving parents a few months before, she has fallen under the guardianship of her stepbrother Harry whose feckless and spendthrift ways and drunken house parties have changed her life. This sad situation culminates in an attempt on her virtue by Harry, only foiled by the devotion of the housekeeper Mrs. Bailey. She departs in great secrecy taking minimal money and her mother’s jewels, and travels, for the first time alone, to London hoping to get employment. To her relief she is sent to a country house as governess to Lady Cecily, the twelve year old daughter of the impractical newly widowed Lady Kingwood. As Marianne has adopted the alias of Anne Bolton, when she meets the new Earl of Kingswood, Ash, he is at first uninterested in a plainly dressed employee. He is trying to come to terms with his new status as an Earl at the death of his cousin John, and the sad state of the house and estate, while seeking to forget his youthful attraction to “Fanny”, now Dowager Lady Kingswood. It soon becomes obvious that Anne is the only one who can manage and organise the household, and she becomes happily involved. She is living a new life, but she cannot escape her past completely. She also worries about her relationship with Ash; while she is undoubtedly attracted to him, and they have good humoured conversations, neither of them is certain of the other. While Anne finds many positives in her new identity, she still doubts how long it can last for. Ash is more than a fixed hero figure, as he still makes assumptions that bring their own problems.

This is a lovely romance, but there is a hard level underneath as one character reveals many undesirable elements and there seems to be no escape. The research into the carriages and types of business relating to travel is impeccable. The clothes are beautifully described and well suited to the state of the characters as they develop throughout the book. In short, this book has all the ingredients for an excellent historical romance and I can thoroughly recommend it as a brilliant read of its type, with just the correct amount of tension for a relaxing read.


I think that this is often where novel reading can be a great help when life is difficult. I have been known to read Jane Austen in times of great stress, but when you run out of those, Georgette Heyer and her modern followers can be a big help. However good a literary novel can be in all its modern challenging ideas and convention breaking themes, there will always be a place for genuinely wonderful historical fiction like this, so well done Catherine and I shall certainly be looking for more of your books!