Cecily Faire has a secret—and she intends to keep it. But when she arrives at Willowgrove Hall to serve as a lady’s companion, she comes face-to-face with the only person who knows the truth about her past.
As the steward of Willowgrove Hall, Nathaniel Stanton is dedicated to serving those around him. Nothing escapes his notice—including the beautiful new lady’s companion. He is certain the lovely Miss Faire is hiding something, and he determines to uncover it. But Nathaniel has a secret of his own: he is the illegitimate son of Willowgrove’s former master. Falling in love was not part of his plans . . . until he meets Cecily Faire.
When Willowgrove’s mistress dies, everything changes. Fear of exposure forces Cecily to leave under the cover of darkness, embarking on a journey to finally find her long-lost sister. When the will is read, Nathaniel’s inheritance makes him question his future plans. Cecily and Nathaniel are forced to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Is their love strong enough to survive?
Regency romance has distinctive qualities that are staunchly evaluated by fervent readers of the genre. The cadence of speech, the luscious descriptions, the simmering undercurrents of tension and affection between heroine and hero. All are critical to the success of encapsulating this romanticized era. Sarah Ladd’s A Lady at Willowgrove Hall meets all of the prerequisites effortlessly, resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable novel to indulge in during those long winter evenings.
Cecily Faire arrives at Willowgrove Hall to fulfill the position of companion to the ailing and opinionated lady of the manor. Upon her arrival she is encountered with an unwelcome person from her past and lives in fear that their connection will be exposed. Nathaniel Stanton, the steward of Willowgrove Hall, is intrigued and attracted to Cecily, but is to consumed by personal tragedy to entertain the idea of a relationship. The sudden death of Willowgrove’s mistress complicates both Cecily and Nathaniel’s futures as they are forced to reckon with the truth of their position and circumstances.
While there is certainly a romantic tale to be had in this novel, the main plot focuses on the secrets that lurk in the shadows of Willowgove Hall. Cecily and Nathan’s familial dishonour and hidden shame are at centre stage. Nathan was raised with all of the love and affection of a caring family, but a devastating secret revealed on his father’s death bed calls in to question all he knows about himself and the man he so greatly esteemed. In contrast, Cecily’s father ruled over her and her twin sister like a tyrant, withholding all fatherly sentiments. He cast Cecily out, abandoning her at a boarding school for young girls and severed all contact after a foolish youthful mistake. Two fathers who could not be more at odds with one another, yet both irrevocably setting their child down a path of hurt and self discovery.
The plot focuses much more on individual growth and introspection than grand gestures and events. There is a steady build towards the climax but the pace is leisurely and offers room for reflection. In this regard, readers can visit the residents of Willowgrove Hall one evening, take a respite and then return to its parlours and gardens without a feeling of urgency or desperation. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall endears itself to languid evenings with a book and a spot of tea.
The third instalment in the Whispers on the Moors series is a delight and not to be missed by fans of regency novels.
**Disclosure: review copy provided by publisher**