"A well-written novel, elegantly grounded in an England of the past. The historical setting is seamlessly woven into the plot, the central characters quickly spring into people of flesh and blood."
18th Century 1700s
I shall come clean right from the start and admit I was in two minds about reading this book—mainly because of the title. Also, the short description had me somewhat concerned: an earl to strong-arm his heir into marrying an impoverished nobody? In the 18th century? Hmm, I thought.
I am glad to report that my initial concerns were quickly proven groundless. Four chapters in and I was already invested in the well-drawn and engaging protagonists, both of them victims to the machinations of their callous and deeply unlikeable fathers. In Connie’s case, one can—almost—understand why her father leaps at the opportunity of seeing her wed well above her station. In Will’s case…well, let’s just say Lord Marstone is the father from hell.
Usually, a historical romance ends with a wedding. In this novel, things begin with a wedding. They have never met before the day they speak their vows, and while Connie undoubtedly is the most vulnerable—she is, after all, a woman, a possession handed over from her father to her unknown husband—Will is as uncomfortable as she is with this whole business of wedding a stranger. Who wouldn’t be?
While Will’s relationship with his father is a frigid, thorny thing, he has memories of happier days, long summer weeks spent with his siblings and his loving mother while his father entertained himself elsewhere. So when his father forces him to wed, Will manages to extract one concession: that he and his bride be allowed to reside in the Devonshire home his mother loved the best, far from the overbearing earl.
Connie has no happy memories—her mother died too young. What little she knows of Will paints him as a carousing rake, a man who duels in the early dawn with the cuckolded husbands of his lovers. What he knows of her, she does not know, but worries he will dislike having a wife who enjoys to read and broaden her mind well beyond the somewhat limited interests a woman “should” have. But while she may have her doubts about Will, she immediately realises he is very, very different from his father, and that is something to be very grateful for—as is the fact that they will not be living in close proximity with her new father-in-law.
Hesitantly, the newly-weds establish some sort of relationship. Will shows restraint, Connie tries not to be overwhelmed, and in the manor of Ashton Tracey she sees the possibility of making a home. But there is some other game afoot at the little manor, a dangerous and illegal activity that soon comes to threaten not only their future, but also their lives.
This is a well-written novel, elegantly grounded in an England of the past. The historical setting is seamlessly woven into the plot, the central characters quickly spring into people of flesh and blood, and the plot is adequately convoluted. This is not a fast-paced novel—Ms Davis has an affinity for beautiful descriptive writing that at times slows things down. This reader does not mind. In fact, this reader very much enjoyed the atmosphere created by this talented author—so much so, in fact, that I have already acquired a new book by Ms Davis.
© Anna Belfrage