'If a woman's old enough to wear a corset, she's old enough to know midnight meeting's spell trouble.'
Well that opening salvo certainly grabbed my attention.
Bargained off to meet her stepfather's debts and to keep her mother safe, Lydia Montgomery decides to meet Lord Sandford, the Earl of Greenwich's demands, with her own strings attached!
Edward's passion is for uncovering the secrets of exotic plants. He has decided to set his things in order, get himself a wife and heir, before sailing off, maybe never to return, on a scientific expedition to collect plant samples from the Africa's.
As he is a recluse, badly scarred from an encounter with pirates on a previous voyage, this seems the way to proceed.
In fact he has some interesting observations attached to him by society. There's elusive, eccentric, The Phantom of London, mad, diseased, and The Greenwich Recluse to name a few. The way he has decided to solve his problem certainly fits with some of the monikers.
Both Lydia and Edward, Lord Edward Christopher James Sandford, ninth Earl of Greenwich, that is, are fascinating characters.
Lydia has more than a talent for painting. This talent helps her to enter into her Earl's heart and will later set them at odds with each other.
Edward's mother, the countess, is a piece of work. She is appalled that her son is marrying a commoner! The early interplay between her and Lydia is amusing and difficult, yet she and Lydia form an uneasy alliance in an attempt to keep the Earl at home.
Then there's the mysterious housekeeper, the beautiful Miss Mayhew. I don't feel that the mystery of her is ever resolved. Occasionally, the mysterious Miss Mayhew had me feeling like I'd wandered into the pages of Wuthering Heights, or some other gothic novel.
The middle dragged a tad, as Lydia struggled to be true to herself, but the resolution of the struggle between Lydia and the Earl was handled in an interesting manner with some surprising outcomes.
This beauty and the beast story has some interesting depths and special moments.
A NetGalley ARC