by Julianne Donaldson
Unconditional Recommendation: A darling story of an innocent, whimsical 17-year-old girl who learns to embrace the love and acceptance she didn’t think would be hers.
Genre: Historical Romance
I both cried and squealed in delight while reading this lovely, wholesome story. I loved that it was tame, more focused on friendship and character development, and refreshingly, gloriously free of the lust that dominates most romance novels these days. It was such an enjoyable feel-good read in a beautiful setting with beautiful characters.
Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that event he best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.
To immediately contradict the publisher’s summary, this story contains no adventure and very little mystery. There’s a tad, but not much. This is a story more focused on character than on plot and I think it does a great job at it. But don’t mistake it for an adventure story with thrills. It’s gentle, soft, and introspective.
As with most historical romances, there’s the slight touching or closeness that gives characters pleasant sensations, but this story is inarguably free of lust-dominated thinking and actions from the main characters. Thank goodness. This romance is largely about friendship and I am a huge fan of the friends-to-lovers trope. There’s some kissing when love is revealed and some unwanted kissing from someone trying to take advantage, but in this book sin is sin and goodness is goodness—they are never confused.
Friendship, love, and acceptance change people for the better. Marianne begins so lonely—her heart locked up securely inside while she weathers her grieving life situation—and friendship sets her free. It allows her to mourn, to grow, and to become a better version of herself. This friendship helps both the main characters shine brighter.
Marianne Daventry is naïve and whimsically romantic about country living. She feels a certain belonging with country living compared to town life and I couldn’t agree with her more. Not knowing anything about how romance should be, about how men and women act, she is endearingly appalled at the slightest flirting. Marianne has a good handle on morals and operates as a sheltered, innocent girl in a perilous world. Her character growth is lovely and so heartwarming. She’s a good person in the best sense, but she’s got some growing up to do and it is so satisfying to see the results.
Philip Wyndham is changed by the weight of responsibility and his inheritance lures more shallow women than he wants to deal with. He’s quite fed up with women trying to snag him for his title and money when he meets Marianne, but, like her, he is also changed by their friendship. I love that they make each other better versions of themselves.
I was not expecting the ending to come about in the way that it did, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how satisfying it was.
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