I must admit that I was puzzled by the opening. I couldn't quite understand why Asher MacGregor, the newly titled ninth Earl of Balfour, was meeting two women from across the Atlantic and and escorting them to London for the season. What was the link? Who had asked him to meet them and why? Gradually a fuller picture emerges.
Hannah Cooper, heiress, or 'Boston' as Asher calls her, is stubborn and single minded, enduring all for her family. As her tale emerges we become enraged on her behalf. She is entrapped by her times and her gender.
Asher is the lost Earl, come at the eleventh hour back to the fold, tragedy at his back and in his heart. A tragedy that 'Boston' unknowingly helps keep at bay. Slowly we become privy to his story of conflict and loss.
These two compliment each other in so many ways. They are indeed sympatico.
Balfour is compassionate, insightful and yet afraid of love. Hannah is intelligent and brave, yet fearful. Not for herself but for others.
Miss Hannah Cooper is not what Asher expected, and she walks with a limp as she so plainly and unselfconsciously tells him, 'A blind man could tell I limped from the cadence of my steps.'
Ah, feet again! This time a foot that's associated with a limp, not a sock. I am loving the lure of the elegant foot that crops up in Burowes' novels from time to time. Certainly Balfour himself wonders that, 'feet could be erotic...they were supposed to mind their mundane business...here he was haunted by the feel of a lady's soft foot.'
Burrowes has taken the girl meets boy story and turned it on its head, retaining the small telling acts of love, of being in love, in new and heady ways. Her storytelling, as always, displays depth and insight.
Underlying the story is the very real fact that wives, children, sisters and mothers were at this time at the mercy of their male relations. They were belongings. When those relationships were good, they were encouraging, not stultifying; but when they were bad they were--despicable.
An interesting aside is the use of laudanum at this time, particularly by women and its quite debilitating effect. Addiction is not far away. Hannah's aunt and companion, Miss Enid Cooper, is dependant upon laudanum. This dependency opens up opportunities for Hannah.
A wonderful tale of endurance, love and sacrifice--not necessarily in this order.
It is quite dazzling to witness the assembled magnificence of the MacGregor brothers along with their wives and children, whom we know from previous tales. Their support of each other, the exhibition of a caring supportive family is very real.
A feast of characters, decisively written and a pleasure to read!
A NetGalley ARC