The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.
With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.
Several years ago I read Jane Eyre for the first time. That initial reading sparked an interest in Gothic romances, so when I read the synopsis for this book by Jessica Dotta I was instantly intrigued. (That and the beautiful cover!)
Julie is an interesting character, and even as you watch her make bad decisions, you are sympathetic to her plight and interested in discovering what will happen to her next. Unlike many modern books, it is not easy to determine who is the hero and who is the villain, and the author does an excellent job of highlighting the vulnerability of unprotected women during the Victorian age. This adds suspense to the plot, and literally kept me up until four in the morning waiting to see if Julie’s choices had landed her in safety or right in her enemies hand.
I had only a few complaints about this book. The first was that Julie kisses the owner of the (appropriately scary and sprawling) house in which she is a guest – over, and over, and over. After a while I got a little tired of reading about it. Secondly, this book is the first in a trilogy. It wasn’t until I was done with the novel that I realized the story continues on through all three books, thus it ends on a cliff hanger. There is a time in the climax that Julia has an important decision to make. Had she chosen a different option, the story would have ended at that book. I will have to read the sequel to decide if that was a good or bad choice on the author’s part.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. (So much so that I own both the paperback and e-book!) I would recommend it to lovers of Jane Eyre and historical suspense.