Publication date: May 8, 2013
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This is an interesting Victorian romance mixed with healthy dose of mystery and intrigue. The heroine, Vanessa Ashley, is the impoverished niece of an earl who becomes the new governess to Blythe, the young daughter of Julian Grieve, Viscount Falconbridge. Upon her arrival, Vanessa becomes fascinated with Falconbridge Hall, and rumors of a woman who was hung in its woods. The disappearance of Blythe's previous governess was also a mystery to Vanessa, which, along with the mysterious disappearance of a painting, made up the mystery aspect of the book.
The romance of the book is naturally between Vanessa and Julian, whose previous wife had left to pursue her own fun. Julian is a botanist and serious researcher of terrestrial invertebrates, in particular butterflies, which serves as an interesting motif of his previous wife's flighty nature and his own inclination to "keep things under glass." The change in his character from a highly withdrawn devotee of science to a father who learned to put his family ahead of science in his heart is slow, but believable and well done. Prior to his leaving for another botany expedition in the Amazon, he proposed a marriage-of-convenience to Vanessa, who agreed out of concern for Blythe's well-being. What follows that is the familiar trope of a marriage-of-convenience turning into a love match, but the focus of the story was never on passionate love, but on the eternal love found among couples whose compassion and kindness surpassed all other qualities of person. In a sense, I believe this book could be put into the category of a love-inspired historical.
That is not to say, however, that there are no love scenes in this book. There is, but it's fitting and not induced by pure lust. Rather, the developing affection (which turns into love) and appreciation of each other's characteristics make the love scenes both intense and sensual.
Lastly, the mysterious of this book was interesting, though readers are given enough hints through Vanessa's own musings to piece the past together long before the characters themselves find out. Their process of finding out had omitted some details and appeared somewhat abrupt near the end, though it did not much disturb the book's pacing, nor the author's writing.
The author's use of interspersing simple sentences and detailed description of scenery perfectly crafted the wild and mysterious setting of Falconbridge Hall and conveyed without confusion Vanessa and Julian's thoughts when they were together, and when they were apart. This indirect characterization had done much to reveal the characters' personalities and mind, which added a layer of realism and amiability to the story. I highly applaud Maggi Andersen's writing in this book, and would say that overall, this is quite a soothing, wonderful read.
Rating: 4 tulips