Darbury, England, 1814
Pride goes before the fall . . . but what comes after?
Amelia Barrett, heiress to an ancestral estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s infant baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father, Graham, a sea captain she’s never met.
Tragedy strikes when the child vanishes with little more than a sketchy ransom note hinting to her whereabouts. Fear for the child’s safety drives Amelia and Graham to test the boundaries of their love for this infant.
Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she examines her soul and must face her one weakness: pride.
Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline.
Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.
To fulfill the dying wish of her dearest friend and secure the custody of Lucy-the daughter of her heart-Amelia must marry before her twenty-fourth birthday to receive her lavish inheritance of Winterwood Manor an all her holdings. Extricating herself from a betrothal to a manipulative opportunist, she proposes a marriage of convenience to widower Captain Graham Sterling, Lucy’s father. This sets in to motion a disintegration of family trust and sense of belonging as Amelia is rejected by her only living relations. She vacillates between certainty and suspicion regarding Graham’s motivations to marry her, an ostensible stranger. Her devotion to Lucy is admirable and she is an endearingly spirited heroine.
Graham is resolute to reject Amelia’s proposition until he suddenly has a change of heart when confronted by the true character of her fiance. Initially he believes that recanting on his pledge to remain single is all for Lucy’s sake of security and love while he is at sea, but he is quick to identify the more than platonic feelings for Amelia warring against his sensible nature. A war hero and gentleman to his core, he cannot retain his honour or pride by leaving Amelia in the perils of her current situation which she selflessly endured for his family’s benefit.
The Heiress of Winterwood won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah Ladd deftly employs the rhetoric of the Regency era while maintaing a flow of dialogue that is natural and layered. Her integration of period details is executed with precision, enough to establish the setting but not to overwhelm with description. The synopsis alludes to a suspenseful overtone, but the highlighted plot does not appear until the last third of the book. This is no fault of the author but it does affect the pacing of the book, especially since what readers expect to happen does not come to fruition until the romantic tension between the leads is nearly ratified.
The interactions between Amelia and Graham are limited, with few scenes not withstanding, to the confines of societal propriety. While they later spend more time in each other’s company, there is a certain depth missing from their relationship to make love wholly believable–deep affection, yes, but not quite love. I was hoping for a more conclusive ending as some critical ends were left untied but this leads me to hope that there will be a sequel.
An intriguing debut from a promising new voice in Regency era fiction.