Tuesday, October 14, 2014
'A Lady at Willowgrove Hall' by Sarah E Ladd
Willowgrove Hall is full of secrets, but soon everything hidden is brought to light.
Cecily Faire has a secret—and she intends to keep it. But when she arrives at Willowgrove Hall to serve as a lady’s companion, she comes face-to-face with the only person who knows the truth about her past.
As the steward of Willowgrove Hall, Nathaniel Stanton is dedicated to serving those around him. Nothing escapes his notice—including the beautiful new lady’s companion. He is certain the lovely Miss Faire is hiding something, and he determines to uncover it. But Nathaniel has a secret of his own: he is the illegitimate son of Willowgrove’s former master. Falling in love was not part of his plans . . . until he meets Cecily Faire.
When Willowgrove’s mistress dies, everything changes. Fear of exposure forces Cecily to leave under the cover of darkness, embarking on a journey to finally find her long-lost sister. When the will is read, Nathaniel’s inheritance makes him question his future plans. Cecily and Nathaniel are forced to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Is their love strong enough to survive?
Cecily Faire was sent to school at Rosemere College in disgrace by a furious father, for a reason she tries hard to keep to herself. Now that she's been offered the position of companion to an elderly gentlewoman, Mrs Tryst, she feels she has to guard her background more closely than ever before.
Nathaniel Stanton is the young, hardworking steward/bailiff of Willowgrove Hall. He's attracted to the new companion, although he knows it's no use because Mrs Tryst always turns her companions against him, for a reason he has no control over.
I love visiting the British Regency era in novels such as this, when social classes were so marked that a wealthy woman could afford to hire a companion just to have some company. Despite her formidable reputation, I found myself feeling a bit sorry for Mrs Tryst even before meeting her, as it seemed she was surrounded by young men just waiting for her to die so they could inherit their future estates. As for her gripe against Nathaniel..., well, although not fair, it's easy enough to understand.
This novel is written with such nice, detailed descriptions of buildings, rooms, gardens and landscapes, that I wouldn't be surprised if the author had some photos and other research to base them on. I enjoyed how she put us right in the picture, and I was a bit concerned about the future of beautiful Willowgrove Hall itself, at the finish.
Cecily is an exemplary heroine, except for one pivotal lack of judgment toward the end, which I suppose every heroine is entitled to. Basically, she decides not to give Nathaniel a chance to react however he might, fearing what he might say. Of course, her behaviour gives him another chance to shine, and heroes like Nathaniel are the reason why we ladies like to read these Regency romances after all.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for my review copy.