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.       

Frederica by Georgette Heyer – a funny, entertaining romance in the Regency style as a beauty is launched into society

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

This is a classic novel by Heyer which sums up the humour, incisive character creation and keen awareness of success in this period of Georgian high society and its obsessions. A stunningly beautiful girl is launched into society, there are adventures in some unlikely places, and there are some wickedly funny descriptions of people in all their glorious variety. Frederica is variously described throughout the book as not the radiant beauty of the family, but she is the one with the initiative and the determination to do the best for her family. Vernon, Marquis of Alverstoke is constantly surprised by Frederica and her family; from decades of boredom and easy living where everything is predictable, his involvement with the irrepressible Merriville family represents constant drama in his life. Charis Meriville is the beauty of the season, creating an upset wherever she goes among jealous mothers, lovestruck suitors and keen observers of a social season full of gossip. Much of the considerable humour in this book comes from the antics of the younger brothers, Felix and Jessamy, whose discovery of new family connections gives them even more scope for chaos inducing projects, as Jessamy repents and Felix pursues his passions in a headlong fashion. Altogether the Merriville family are enough to make anyone reconsider their life choices, and in this splendid read from an expert writer there is so much entertainment to be enjoyed.

Alverstoke is a wealthy and somewhat bored man, with his reputation as an elegant dresser and much more. One of his sisters, a widow who is actually quite wealthy, presses him to host a ball at his London house to launch her eldest daughter at the beginning of the season. Aware that Lady Buxted is sufficiently well off enough to cope without him, he refuses, which makes her indignant, especially as she is already of the allowance he makes to his heir, a nephew rejoicing in the name of Endymion. Another of Alverstoke’s relations, Mrs Dauntry, Endymion’s mother, is keen to press the case for Alverstoke to pay for the launch of her daughters, which he also rejects. His attention is drawn by his invaluable secretary to a mysterious Miss Merriville, and wishing to discover more, pays her a visit. He discovers that there is a distant family link, and that Frederica does not demand any financial support for a family she has been managing for years, but would dearly appreciate his help to introduce her beautiful sister Charis to London society. Intrigued and attracted by the unconventional woman who declares herself to be beyond all hope of marriage for herself at the advanced age of twenty four, he agrees to help by hosting the ball that his sister had demanded, shrewdly keeping Lady Buxted from discovering that Charis, who he wants her to sponsor, is outwardly far more attractive than her own daughters. As discovery is made, many men call on the famous beauty, and many suspect that Alverstoke is himself attracted by Charis, complications arise.

Although this book outwardly deals with romance and a memorable social season, much of the appeal comes from the activities instigated by Felix and Jessamy. Certainly they entertain and exasperate Alverstoke. Charis is drawn as an attractive but not very bright girl, which makes her somewhat one dimensional, and is rather dismissed by Heyer. Frederica becomes the real love interest, which is cleverly done as she is steadfast in denying that she has any interest in romance for herself. As with all of Heyer’s novels, there is detailed research on display here, as the descriptions of clothing, setting and behaviour is finely judged. The humour is both subtle and bordering on farcical throughout, especially concerning a boisterous dog which gets the normally calm Frederica into trouble. This is a wonderful read for escapist immersion in another world, beautifully written, carefully constructed and thoroughly recommended.    

A Cornish Betrothal by Nicola Pryce – An historical novel led by strong women

A Cornish Betrothal: 5 (Cornish Saga): Amazon.co.uk: Pryce, Nicola:  9781838950903: Books

A Cornish Betrothal by Nicola Pryce

Amelia Carew is celebrating her twenty fifth birthday in Cornwall, 1798. She is wondering if her new love, Dr Luke Bohenna, will propose marriage, after some time of courtship. There is one consideration; she was in love with another young man until she was told of his death. This historical romance is steep in the atmosphere of a locality familiar with life at sea, with naval officers, sailors of all sorts, a community involved with the insuring ships, receiving goods and helping with those affected by war. This powerful novel has much to say about the place of women in society and the importance of marriage in their lives, but also depicts some women who are unusual in their interests. Amelia is a woman who is very knowledgeable about the healing power of plants, especially herbs. In that respect this book overlaps with another by Pryce,  who has obviously gained a wide knowledge of historic medical uses for plants as well poisonous possibilities. A solid knowledge of the area is eident, as well as the transport favoured by the genteel classes of the times. Not that research ever intrudes on the narrative in a negative way, but Pryce has obviously immersed herself in the small details of life in the late eighteenth century. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this fascinating book.

Amelia’s life in her happy family has been marked by her long time love for Edmund Melville, a young neighbour from a large house, son of a baronet. She grew up in the area in the company of Edmund and his cousin Francis. They were deeply in love, but for complicated family reasons Edmund joined the navy, and went away to sea . Since then Amelia was told of his death, which was confirmed by her godfather, and for the past eighteen months she has thrown herself into planting and caring for a herb garden. Distributing medicinal herbs and other charitable works has brought her into contact with a local doctor, and they have discovered a mutual attraction. Just at the point when everyone expects a declaration, Amelia receives a letter from Edmund, who has been a prisoner and very ill. In getting the letter translated Amelia makes another contact. Visiting Edmund’s childhood home she discovers that his mother is very ill and his sister Constance is threatened with an arranged marriage. Amelia becomes determined to keep her promises to Edmund and become his wife, but there is something very disturbing about him on his return beyond his scars and symptoms of trauma. As Amelia struggles to decide if she should honour her promises to Edmund, she cannot forget her love for the devoted Luke.

This is a powerful and emotional book which deals with romance in a realistic way as it portrays problems faced when more than one person is attractive. There are some fascinating historical details of naval life in the period, as well as family issues, commercial details and the political realities of French prisoners. The herbal recipes and knowledge are carefully inserted and made relevant as an important part of Amelia’s life.  I found this an exciting and fascinating book, full of twists and turns, which kept me guessing throughout. While characters from another book inhabit this story, this is very much Amelia’s narrative as supported by other memorable characters. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in well written historical fiction, especially with the focus on strong women, in an exciting setting. 

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – a Regency romance with a great deal of comedy

The Convenient Marriage

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

In the Regency period marriage among the aristocracy was not necessarily a matter of love or affection, though it may well be involved. The necessities of having a male heir, the need for money and similar reasons meant that arranging a marriage was sometimes not even a matter of attraction, but the making of a mutually convenient contract. When the Earl of Rule finds himself in need of a wife, partly because his presumptive heir is getting to be a nuisance, and partly for reasons that he does not make clear at the beginning of the novel, he approaches the impoverished but well bred Winwood family and seeks the hand of the eldest daughter, virtually sight unseen. This offer, instead of creating happiness among the three Winwood daughters, provokes real unhappiness. It is trying to sort out this crisis that begins a novel which shows real humour as the delightful heroine, Horatia or Horry, discovers that getting married is not the most difficult thing to achieve in a time of polite manners and rules of behaviour. 

The characters in this book are wonderfully lively and vivid, the dialogue frequently very funny, the settings well described and the clothes worn by both the women and the men made important to the story. This is a comedy romance with a historical setting which works extremely well. A classic novel from Heyer in the tradition of the Regency books which she established, this is a very enjoyable read.

The unhappiness provoked by Rule’s proposal to Lady Winwood that he sought Miss Winwood, Elizabeth’s, hand is caused by the fact that she is deeply in love with a Mr Edward Heron, of the 10th Foot, who is an impoverished gentleman. She is desperate to marry him, but she realises, along with her mother, that her brother’s gambling is rapidly leaving her family financially embarrassed. Charlotte, the next eldest sister, is reluctant to marry as she wishes to be a support to their mother. Horry, the youngest, has an idea which she swiftly acts upon. Despite her young age and her total ignorance of men, she visits Rule and explains the situation. Amused and intrigued, Rule decides that he will indeed marry her, and it seems as if everyone will be satisfied. He has a Winwood, charming and attractive if young, she has money, position and has saved her sister. Rule’s cousin and heir is not so happy, as he sees his tremendous inheritance threatened. His weak personality and foppish nature leads him into trouble and gossip, but he is actually a minor issue compared with the fairly malicious Lord Lethbridge, who has motives of his own. When Horry’s brother Pelham gets involved, there are elements of farce to be enjoyed. 

This is a really enjoyable novel which does include a level of threat for a short time, but there are many satisfying elements of this book to entertain the reader. As always, Heyer’s research is impeccable but never allows it to show. She has a great understanding of people in some senses which she demonstrates through their language and behaviour. I really revelled in this book, the activities of those around Horry, the humour and the satisfying conclusion. I really recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fine historical writing, and an excellent piece of romantic escapist fiction.     

Redeeming Her Viking Warrior by Jenni Fletcher – a Scottish island as the setting for an unusual relationship

Redeeming Her Viking Warrior (Mills & Boon Historical) (Sons of Sigurd,  Book 4) eBook: Fletcher, Jenni: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Redeeming Her Viking Warrior by Jenni Fletcher

 

This is a slightly unusual historical romance, in that it is set in the time of frequent invasions of the Scottish islands, and the ninth century was a time of turmoil on the Isle of Skye where much of this exciting novel is set. Not that much historical knowledge is required to enjoy this book; as with other novels by Jenni Fletcher the characters and their relationship with each other is far more important. It features a neat reversal of roles, where the physically huge Danr is physically dependent on a slight woman who has the knowledge to save him. He is talkative, busy and dramatic, whereas Sissa is reluctant to speak, and even more reluctant to reveal her name to this man who disturbs her peaceful way of life. Both have suffered trauma that will take time to recover from, if ever, and neither are eager to find a new relationship. 

 

The setting is lyrically described, as the weather challenges even the prepared with much rain and dropping temperatures. This is an enjoyable novel with lively writing, some humour and fascinating dialogue. While technically part of a collection featuring some slight overlapping of characters and situation, as this is Fletcher’s only contribution to it, this novel is definitely one that can be read as a standalone. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

 

The novel opens with a badly injured Danr lying amongst the roots of a large oak tree, unable to move owing to severe loss of blood. In the haze of his pain he believes he sees a young woman, armed with a spear, accompanied by two wolves and considers his past obsession with the attractiveness of women. Hints of his oath to his brothers, and that Hilda was involved in what will probably be his fatal injuries, flash through his mind. Many things about Hilda are soon revealed, including her possible involvement in his father’s death and his anger at her longer term dislike of himself and his twin brother. Sissa meanwhile prepares to help the strange man who she has discovered apparently on the point of death, as she is a silent healer whose own experience of death has overwhelmed her in the past. She cleverly constructs a shelter from the elements which threaten them both, and as he gradually recovers he begins to talk, and does not really stop. 

 

This is a book which goes into a little of the way that politics was personal at the time; that survival and ability would guarantee a place of power rather than legal inheritance. Danr is influenced by his family background and more. Sissa has been well taught but bases her survival on her own skills and understanding of the natural world. Her relationship with Tove is special as she has little or no experience of human relationships, leaving her with some innocent confusion. Altogether it is a sometimes surprising, always fascinating and well written novel, depicting the relationship between Danr and Sissa with all its ups and downs, misunderstanding and stubbornness. This is a lovely read which comes from a keen imagination and a real talent for constructing a story around a relationship which defies expectations and is really enjoyable. 

 

  So this is September, and there has been a lot of fuss about the number of books being published this month, some of which were delayed from earlier in the year. I have certainly got a lot of books to review in the coming weeks, so I hope the variety will be interesting- they are certainly keeping me busy! Have you got exciting reading plans? 

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer – a well known and brilliantly written historical romance

These Old Shades (Alastair-Audley, #1) by Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

 

Historical romance of the Regency period has never been written better than by Georgette Heyer, who in some ways initiated the genre. In this book she demonstrates her skill in creating memorable characters, setting and a detailed,  wonderful plot. It is well known that her research was not only impeccable but ongoing, and when this book was written in 1926 she did not have the benefit of as many research options as today’s authors, who yet still get things wrong! The story is a little complicated, and it depends on personalities, a delicate social world which must be negotiated, and journeys between Britain and France. Heyer’s confident handling of her material adds consistency to the character’s behaviour, while she appreciates every detail of dress which plays an important part in this particular book. She revels in the details which have much to do with the construction of the image of several characters during the book, and while there several twists and turns here, the gender issue is well explored. I really enjoyed reading this mature and exciting novel.

 

The novel begins with the languid Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, who discovers and buys a boy, Leon, who he resolves to keep as a page. This is regarded as strange and even conceited behaviour by several friends and acquaintances, especially Hugh Davenant, but overall Avon is notorious for outrageous behaviour and affecting strange behaviour. He is a wealthy man with a past, but Leon seems to be devoted to him. When they travel to England, Avon reveals he knows more about Leon than he is willing to divulge at this point. When Leonie is forced to appear, her behaviour and dress becomes a bone of contention with his sister Fanny who he seeks out to help him with his ward. She is the first person who is brought into a circle of friends and family who seek to help, and the dialogue with which they speak is funny and entertaining. An adventure in which a horse is stolen and sold, an evil drink is consumed and a “pig – person” behaves badly, is exciting and a little frightening for a young woman and an otherwise dissolute young man. A plan must be formed for a launch into society and the glorious description of balls, parties and clothes ensues.

 

This is a book of an author writing at the height of her powers. The main characters are well drawn and consistent and the humour which pervades the conversations between a group of friends is very funny; I was particularly amused by the references to Mr Manners, angry ex-owner of a stolen horse, “who will be satisfied with nothing less than our lives” as Avon grimly observes in jest. Tiles and names are important in this book, but the characters are suitably different from each other even in the French aristocracy to be understandable. It is a book with real depth, with the clever suggestion that even less than central characters have a backstory. It has a real plot and is enormously entertaining. The characters are engaging and the settings realistic. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it as a wonderful example of an historical romance.

 

When life gets tough, it is wonderful to find a comfort read, or reread. I have not read Heyer’s book for several years, when family issues meant I needed an ongoing distraction. I had bought a few of her books, and borrowed others, so I have never being sure if I had a full set or if I had read them all. Some of my copies are a bit tricky to get to at the moment, so some one gave me some to read. As I am trying to review a book a day at the moment I thought that this really enjoyable book deserved a post, if only for my own interest, and I hope that it is perhaps a reminder of the skill and talent of this very special author.

The Warrior Knight and the Widow by Ella Matthews – a well written, robust medieval romance

 

Historical romance can be a hard thing to pull off, requiring strong characters, knowledge of the time, and a plot which allows for suspense and revelation. This novel manages to combine all those elements very well; although the date is a little imprecise, the nature of medieval power struggles and the countryside is well done. Ellena is a strong heroine, full of passion, courage and determination. Sir Braedon Leofric, known as the Beast, is an impressive knight physically and in ability. The countryside is full of woods and forests, the accommodation consistent, and the tracks well described. The plot, a perilous journey with a cunning and dangerous pursuit, is strong and allows for suitable suspense. This well researched novel is a really effective read, with a strong female lead who shows great determination on many levels. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this engaging novel.

 

As the novel begins, the Lady Ellena Swein is unhappy at being prised out of her late husband’s castle by a troop of warriors led by Braedan, an experienced and able knight from her father’s castle.  She had hated her late husband for his brutality to her and his inability to run his strategically important castle and estates; since his death she has been grateful for her freedom and proved herself an able administrator and manager. Her father has been demanding that she return to his castle, however, so that he may marry her off to another politically significant associate. He has promised Braedan a generous reward for his service in retrieving his daughter safely. 

 

Unfortunately for the travellers, there is an enemy, Copsi, who is keen to capture Ellena and force her into marriage to gain not only her as a woman but also claim her lands and estate for himself. Thus he and his men pursue the party of warriors, and threaten to kill all her defenders. As Ellena and Braedan seek to evade their pursuers and reach the safety of her father’s castle, they must depend on each other in every respect. However, they each realise that even if they achieve their objective, they will still be subject to Ogmore’s, Ellena’s father’s, will for their lives. As they each have their own ambitions and determination, any attraction between them must be impossible, and any scandal disastrous. 

 

This book is quite a simple story, but it is well handled by a skilful writer and is very engaging. Their physical danger is well described, and there are some hot pursuits and narrow escapes. This is a book of romance in every sense, and makes the most of featuring attractive characters. I really enjoyed it as an escapist read, well paced and robustly written. There is an element of historical fantasy here, but it is solidly expressed in terms of place, behaviour and personality. I enjoyed the vivid writing and consistent characters, and recommend it as a really good escape or distracting read.     

 

I am pleased to be starting the run of reviews and posts for this book. It is certainly well written. Historical fiction is undoubtedly one of my favourite genres, and I am pleased to review this book. I have some really exciting hardback historic novels around the house to embark on, the result of several literary festivals, collecting favourite  authors’ books, and other gems. As I am still moving from book to book on a whim, it will be interesting to see which book comes next ( or maybe it will be something completely different!)

An Unconventional Countess by Jenni Fletcher – a Regency romance with a cliffhanger!

Image result for An unconventional countess fletcher"

 

This is a Regency romance with one immediate twist; at least two of the female characters always says what they think and follow their beliefs, whatever the consequences. It makes the men around them think and react in interesting ways. This being essentially a romance novel there is an attraction for a man who perhaps breaks the mould or at least expectations. The hero of this book is a real naval hero, veteran of Trafalgar, and show stoppingly handsome. To make him entertaining and interesting, he has a troubled background, and is painfully self aware. Anna is a very strong character, who is running her own business, looking after her widowed mother, and has some bitter experience of aristocratic men. This is a novel where anticipation and surprises are the dominant feature, as well as firmly held views on the different levels of society. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this lovely book.

 

As the story begins two men are drawn towards a biscuit shop, a highly successful and fashionable shop in Bath, which is full of those drawn not only by the promised healing properties of the spa water, but also the social scene. Both men are convinced that the two young women they have seen through a shop window are beautiful; but both have their own reaction. The younger and more naive Henrietta attracts Ralph who has few scruples about young women, whereas the good hearted Samuel Delaney is instantly attracted by Anna, who is less than impressed by aristocratic men. Anna is resourceful and protective of Henrietta, which attracts  Samuel, as indeed her personality intrigues him. She encounters his grandparents, who are a seemingly ill matched in their obsessions, but who love each other deeply. Lady Jarrow is determined to help her much loved grandson, as well as rescue an old friend. As she makes firm suggestions or decrees about people’s lives, she takes a firm line with everyone in quite a funny way. 

 

There is a party, a departure from Bath, and some very detailed exploration of how two characters with seemingly little in common find a deep mutual attraction. They have many challenges to face and events beyond their control occur. 

 

This is the sort of book which I wanted to read quickly to find out what happens. It is a gentle and uplifting read, with a lot to recommend it for many readers. I really enjoyed the strong female lead character who is decisive if occasionally misguided. Lady Jarrow is a fantastic creation, who deeply loves and wants the best for others, despite the fact that she hides it behind an obsession with horses and riding. Samuel is a man with hidden depths, a brave naval officer who realises that he must respond to those he loves. Anna is capable of great love, intelligent and loyal. I really enjoyed this book which is comfortable with its setting as the research is never overwhelming but accurate. I really recommend this book to readers of historical romance, especially in the Regency period, and also those who enjoy a good uplifting story.   

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 Princess Plan by Julia London, a romantic novel set in Victorian London with murder and comedycomedy

Image result for the princess plan by julia london

 

A handsome, wealthy young prince is in search of a wife in London 1845. His attention is taken by an unusual woman, and everyone else is shocked. A standard romantic theme but added to greatly by the personalities and setting chosen by the author Julia London, as the heroine is an argumentative and down to earth young woman with a mind of her own. Eliza is not rich, not young by the standards of the day, and a woman who was publicly humiliated in her past. Prince Sebastian is the heir to the kingdom of Alucia, a small but resource rich country in Europe, who has been brought up with every attention, guarded obsessively and who must find a wife. It is an unlikely meeting at a masked ball that brings these two unique people together, but it is a murder which means their relationship continues. This is a well written novel with characters who have quite a modern dialogue, but which works well in the context of this novel. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this imaginative and enjoyable novel.

 

Eliza is a young woman who lives with and keeps an eye on her father who is an active judge and is also blind. Polly is officially a servant, but in the small household she is regarded as a friend. Eliza was badly let down by her first love, and now enjoys the limited and active society provided by her widowed sister Hollis, and their friend Caroline. Hollis and Eliza produce a gazette or magazine for ladies  which is filled with gossip, fashion and household tips. It is partly to gather material for their publication that leads to their attendance at a masked ball at Kensington Palace, given in honour of a Prince. Prince Sebastian and his younger brother Leopold are visiting with their entourage as trade links are needed, and it is understood that Sebastian must find a wealthy and well connected English wife during his visit. It is an accidental meeting with the tipsy Eliza that makes Sebastian begin to regret the parade of suitable potential brides that he must navigate, and she resolves to remember the evening into her future.

 

When a good friend of Sebastian is found murdered, the gentle romance becomes somewhat darker. As the British authorities seem ineffectual , Sebastian decides to take a hand in investigating the crime. Eliza gets involved when she receives a note that highlights a potential suspect, and soon Sebastian does things that stretch his expectations, fascinated by Eliza whose different behaviour confuses and attracts him.

 

This is a funny, intriguing and thoroughly entertaining book. There are small quibbles, as the pavement in a London street becomes a “sidewalk”, and Eliza does push the boundaries a lot further than Victorian social networks would accept. The second point is part of its charm, as Sebastian is attracted by the first woman who questions him and his actions, even makes fun of what he does. I really enjoyed their budding relationship, as they seem to be intrigued by each other despite their perceived roles and limitations. This is a book of dances at fine balls, but also the home that Eliza runs, characters who surround the Prince and the young woman who he finds so interesting. A lovely romantic novel which pushes the boundaries, but is enjoyable and unusual, engaging and exciting. I recommend this to all fans of historical romance, especially those who enjoy something a little different.