To be or not to be—in love. . .
As a ward of the Duchess of Dorset, Harriet can hardly expect more from a match than the ringing endorsement of "from what I've heard, the man is financially secure and his teeth are quite regular." After all, she's only the lowly daughter of traveling actors, not the actual daughter of the duchess.
William Talbot, Earl of Abingdon is set to marry the duchess's daughter. After his elder brother's scandalous death, his family's reputation is paramount, and he'll allow nothing to damage it again. But when Harriet disappears to save her father from debtor's prison, the scandal threatens William and his intended's family. The simple task of fetching the duchess's runaway ward turns complicated when Harriet insists on traveling with her father's acting company. William's forced to tag along, and finds himself entranced. The stage transforms Harriet into a free-spirited, captivating beauty. But, someone's been sabotaging the theater company, and instead of facing scandal, William and Harriet discover a threat not only to their growing passion, but to their lives. . .
Customer ReviewsSee All
A masterful twisting of the plot with unexpected doors opening
In my continuing obsession with historical romance this story of a young girl torn between her adopted and birth families, with only her childhood memories and desire for ‘more’ as her guideposts. Julia Tagan brings readers into the world and explores the differences between the more socially acceptable life that Harriet is leading with her guardians versus the somewhat scandalous life of a troop of actors.
Harriet is a wonderful character: full of life and heart she wonders about her father and the fun times she remembers of touring with the Farley Players. What she is soon to realize is that a child’s memories are often rose-tinted, and not necessarily a solid basis for a grand life choice. A possible engagement to a much older man leaves her disappointed, as not a true member of the ton she doesn’t expect a titled match close to her age, but her suitor Mr. Hopplehilll just bores her.
As the ward of the Duchess of Dorset, she has been a companion to her daughter Marianne, and treated much as a member of the family. Marianne and Harriet are fast friends, with Marianne’s excitement in her upcoming betrothal to Will, the Earl of Abingdon. Will is newly arrived at the title, and has put his schooling for medicine on hold: far more uptight and restrained, Will is more typical of the men of his stature, a bit too concerned with appearances and very buttoned up.
But Harriet is told of her father’s ill health and failing finances, she is hard pressed to help, but not having the financial or social means herself. She decides to step in and help, with memories of the fun she had as a child foremost in her mind. Here we find an unusual twist, it is Will who dashes off to convince Harriet to return before her actions tarnish the reputation of the Duchess of Dorset, and jeopardizes the match with her daughter. And we then get the first twist: Will Is unable to resist Harriet’s heartfelt pleas to aid her father, and agrees to travel with her to mitigate scandal.
Will opens up in their travels: with many events that appear to be coincidental but are jeopardizing the Farley Players, while allowing Harriet and Will to develop feelings, even as he often makes it clear that they will not make a match. For her part, Harriet is realizing that her father is not as she remembered, that traveling from show to show means irregular meals, long hours and few moments to call your own, let alone feel secure. With an ongoing threat to the players there is tension, but it is very fun to see Will let down his stuffy exterior: his exposure to things he’d never seen and his reactions are cleverly written, and show just how sheltered he is compared to most. They are getting closer and then….
Will and Harriet cross words, and he is back to London to marry Marianne as arranged. With the questions about the immediate future of the Farley Players settled, she returns to face the music with the Duchess and her daughter. And the music is harsh – Harriet’s rash decisions put the family reputation in jeopardy, not to mention her own. With Marianne furious about the betrayal, things couldn’t be much worse for Harriet: even the loss of Will’s affection seems insurmountable.
But Julia Tagan adds in so many unexpected twists and about-faces with hidden agendas and unspoken desires that readers are constantly wondering if they have followed the story at all – in all the best ways. Characters breathe in this book, becoming layered and as real as if standing in front of you. I thought I knew where the story would lead, and I was wrong every time! A masterful twisting of the plot with unexpected doors opening leads readers on a journey that is engaging and intriguing, with no flat or dull moments. A really wonderful read.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.