Monday, October 6, 2014

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladds

The Basics:
A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson
Book Three in the Whispers on the Moors series
Historical Romance
Published October 7, 2014 
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

I loved the cover as well as the genre.

Her secret cloaks her in isolation and loneliness. His secret traps him in a life that is not his own.
Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady's companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she's desperately hidden for years.
Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father's position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breath a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he'll never be free to find his own way in the world. He'll never be free to fall in love.
When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long suffered?
My thoughts:

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is a very mild historical romance. With a slow and gentle pace, it's a bit reminiscent of the books of the period, other than the scandalous secrets that float about and clutter the 'what is not being said' space of the book.

Cecily is a young woman who has been rather mistreated by her family - well, her father at least. After he finds out what she's been up to with the son of the local lord, he ships her off to a girls' boarding school and disowns her. Jerk. I wanted to read his karmic retribution. Otherwise, Cecily is very empathetic. She tries to understand people rather than judging them by their bad behaviour, and overall, she's a very, well, mild character.

Nathaniel was a bit more prickly but still easily on the 'good person' side of things. He's driven by an earnest desire to honour his commitments, his family and the land itself. I liked him well enough, and his family as well. I thought that the position he found himself in - part and parcel of his secret - was awkward at best, but a nice twist. 

There's a reasonable cast of supporting characters, the most notable of them a young widow/dressmaker with her eye on Nathaniel, and Mrs. Tryst, Cecily and Nathaniel's employer. In the vein of 'not of the aristocracy', I appreciated that neither Cecily nor Nathaniel were at the top of the social structure, nor fully in control of their own futures. Seeing how they dealt with that was a good way to define the characters.

Now, I did found the negative talk about Manchester (where Cecily wants to go to look for her sister, whom she was separated from when she was sent to the boarding school) to be a little stiff. It's described the same way a couple of times by different characters, and so negatively.... Maybe this is historically accurate but it read as a bit flat to me.

In terms of heat - there's a lot of talking around Cecily's secret and what it was exactly. Combine that with fade-to-black sensibilities and I'd say that anyone could read this book.

Bottom line:

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall was a decent read, but with a slower pace than I normally like. If I could describe the book in one word, it would be 'mild.' There was nothing in it that I really hated, but also nothing that I really loved.

3.5 stars
For fans of Regency romance, conservative romance.

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