This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
One of my favorite story lines in Historical Romance is that of a romance that crosses the classes of society and boy did this one ever. A wealthy mill owner with the lowest of pedigrees falls in love at first sight with the daughter of an impoverished duke. The Lady Helen despises him on sight, but this does not detour Ethan Brundy. Yep, and when the bell rings come out of your corners fighting… except that oddly dressed, quietly assertive gentle man didn’t give Helen the fight she was aiming all her clever plots and verbal barbs for. Instead, he set out to gain the love of his wife by being himself.
[quote]Any one of Manchester’s dozens of cotton mills could produce calico and gingham, but this one produced a man. He had been tempered in the fires of poverty and hard labor, forged into a man unlike any Town beau she had ever known. He was the gentlest of men, yet he had held his ground against the Duke of Reddington’s towering rage. He was an astute businessman, yet he treated his workers with consideration and fairness. He debated labor reform with members of Parliament, yet he took the trouble to buy peppermints for a child in his employ…The great irony was that there was no place in Society for such a man. Loc 1355 Lady Helen from The Weaver Takes a Wife[/quote]
This was a lovely, sweet and heartwarming story with enough romp to it to keep it interesting. A story of which Georgette Heyer would be proud. In fact, reading this one reminded me so much of a Georgette Heyer Regency right down to the sparkling characters and the cunning dialogue.
The story opens with Ethan Brundy out with his two London friends to the theater, but it is not the play that grabs his attention. In a confident tone, he informs Lord David and Sir Aubrey that he will marry the beautiful Lady Helen and will Lord David please get him an introduction. Ethan Brundy is a nice fellow, but Lord David doesn’t want to see him cut down by the shrewish tongue of one of the Ton’s bluest of bluebloods. His friend’s speech, dress and manner smack of his merchant class origins, but David is finally persuaded to help Ethan. And low and behold, it is not much longer that Ethan gains his bride to the shock of upper class society.
Helen is appalled that her father’s gambling debts have emptied the family coffers to the point that she is sold to the mushroom Cit who is now her husband. She is determined to teach the upstart Mr. Brundy a thing or two about reaching above himself and trying to think himself the equal of his betters. Her every waspish word and cold mannered scheme is met with gentle kindness and generosity. He even agrees to not touch her for at least six months to allow her a chance to adjust to him. Plotting against her husband and even gaining a few possible triumphs become hollow victories because he seems pleased for her to do as makes her happiest. The only time her husband becomes agitated is when she allows one of her previous suitors to lead her into the waltz and monopolize her time. She soon learns that using Lord Waverly might have been a mistake because her former suitor isn’t finished with her it seems.
As time goes on, Ethan tries to be patient especially as he sees his wife softening toward him and he is warmed beyond belief when she wishes to accompany him on his trip north to deal with some mill business. Helen starts to accept that her marriage might be a good thing when her family’s gambling weakness lands her in trouble again. She suddenly doesn’t want to lose the admiration of her husband so she lies to him and plots around him to rescue her brother from debt only to be hit with blackmail and an offer that disgusts her.
This was a sweet gentle romance between two unlikely people. I loved the juxtaposition of their places in life, but also that the story is told against two opposite settings of London society and Manchester mill life. Ethan was bought out of a workhouse to work in a mill and Helen is raised in the most pampered worlds. The whole story is about how these two connect across the divide. The historical backdrop was very authentic without bogging down the story and I loved that. The pacing is slower, but steady. The characters were not deeply sketched, but they were wholly drawn so that one could know them. Helen isn’t likeable at first when she is like Shakespeare’s Shrew, but I loved seeing her change. Ethan is a doll from cover to cover. Although, I wished he had gone with his basest instinct and punched the jerk Waverly a good one.
The romance in this one is as chaste as it comes so that this book could be read by a young girl or a sensitive spinster great-aunt. It totally relied on the plot and characters to carry it and these held strong.
All in all this was an engaging bit of distraction that I would recommend to lovers of Sweet Historical Romance that takes place in an authentic setting.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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