Synopsis: With nothing left from her childhood except a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman, some skill with a needle, and the knowledge of a dreadful secret, Philomena escapes her tormentor, Joseph, and the dank fogs of Victorian London, only for a train crash to interrupt her quest for independence and freedom.
Trapped between the upstairs and downstairs occupants of a great country house, Philomena hears whispers of the mysteries and lies that lurk in empty corridors and behind closed doors. Her rescuer, the dangerous, enigmatic Hugh, Lord Thatcham, wrestles with his own demons and makes Philomena’s heart race, but she must fight her passion for she can never marry.
Haunted by her past, Philomena’s only hope of happiness is to confront the evil forces that threaten to destroy her.
Review: Having read a number of historical romances this year, it's nice to read a book that has engaging characters, but also sets the scene perfectly.
We are familiar with the Victorian era through books and films, but rarely is it presented so well, as it is here in the author's debut novel.
I literally felt I was on the streets of Victorian England. Even though the south is mentioned, it's nice that the south west - Bristol in this case, is featured too.
The cover was a real grabber for me - the thoughtful pose of the character but also the beautiful background detail really gives you an insight into the author's setting for this book.
As a romance, it works well. Philomena, like the women of the period, was not allowed to travel outside alone. So she abounds on her adventure into the outside world dressed as a boy. What will be the repercussions of her behaviour? Will she be in some trouble if / when found out, or much worse?
Fortunately the author has penned an engaging drama that has no need to be over the top with, shall we say...'energetic scenes'.
Yes, the hero, Lord Thatcham, takes a liking to Philomena, but even more so when she reveals her true self.
Maybe the ending isn't in doubt, but that hardly matters. For a debut novel the author shows a real command of her world, one I will be happy to revisit.