Like many of you, I’d like to forget much of 2021. Of course, there were some precious moments, like seeing our grandchild grow into an amazing little boy, but the rest wasn’t so wonderful. What helped me make it through this annus horribilis, apart from my loving family, was my writing.
No matter what was going, I knew I could escape within the pages of my new book. The story, which required a great deal of research, allowed me to get away from the nastiness surrounding us these days.
So here it is, ready to share. Let’s hope we turn a page in 2022 and get to a better place together.
Big THANKS to Lauren from Romance4theBeach for providing this wonderful review.
What better way to start off the new year than with a captivating historical romance featuring two headstrong lead characters on opposing sides of a societal battle? We can’t help but wonder who will succeed first, the innocent beauty trying to sway this man to see her point of view, or the devilish rake hoping to sway said beauty into his bed. Crack this one open to find out for yourself!
What’s it About?
Lady Aeryn Dunning believes love is fiction, a clever myth designed to control the weak. It was why marriage had never been an option for her growing up. But time changes that. Aeryn starts to feel like a burden on her family and yields to their wishes, accepting the hand of her father’s friend, the Honorable Lord Dunning. Kenneth is much older than her, but the politician is kind and compassionate, making him as good a choice as any. The two become more friends than lovers, but sadly, the marriage would be short-lived. Aeryn is left a wealthy widow, free to pursue a cause dear to her and her husband – saving children from factories and giving them the gift of learning.
Handsome Royce Garrington is a member of Parliament whose tragic past made him cold and uncaring. His arrogance is well-known, and his patience razor-thin. The young lord hates wasting time on inconsequential matters and sees the Factory Act as one of these. He believes the alleged abuses in factories exaggerated and urges the House to move on to more pressing issues.
Aeryn and Royce meet under the most extreme circumstances, and immediately he is drawn to the ravishing redhead. Aeryn knows of Lord Garrington; he is a scoundrel, and she should have nothing to do with him. But when the cad threatens her father’s reputation, Aeryn is forced to agree to a most scandalous arrangement with him. Neither is prepared for the torrent of emotions that would overwhelm them during their time together. Perhaps love does exist, and its power can sway the opposition.
Swaying the Opposition proves to be the kind of historical romance where you not only have the opportunity to witness the development of a young couples’ relationship from enemies to lovers, but you also learn something about the time period in question. At first I was a tad concerned that the rather heavy subject matter of child labor and corresponding injuries/fatalities in the midst of the Industrial Revolution would put a damper on the romance evolving between Lady Dunning and Lord Garrington, but the author actually does a phenomenal job of weaving the details of the Factory Act as a key feature into the romantic story line of the book. The two elements go hand-in-hand, and while you might need a tissue (I know I certainly did) a time or two as we witness the harsh realities of factory work in this era, there are plenty of other moments where you’ll want to stand up and cheer for the bravery and resilience of those who fought to bring about an end to these injustices. What better backdrop for two people on seemingly opposite sides of the aisle to find their way into each other’s arms?
A Blackmail Scheme that Leads to Love
Aeryn proves to be the perfect boss lady of a heroine. She’s the kind of female lead you love to love. Not afraid to go after what she wants, she also does whatever is necessary for the betterment of those less fortunate than her, even if it means throwing societal pressures and expectations to the wayside. Does she ultimately succumb to the blackmail scheme devised by Lord Garrington to get her into his bed in return for his silence over her actions of trespassing to free a young girl from a harmful factory? Sure, but this really shouldn’t be construed as a matter of weakness, but almost as one of empowerment. I couldn’t help but applaud the author for her ability to highlight this scenario as a way for Aeryn to finally explore her sexuality for the first time in her life, and with a partner she actually wanted to say yes to. In a way, it felt as though this moment of blackmail was the excuse Aeryn needed to convince herself it was ok to give into the desire that Royce had awoken within her. You never for a moment think that Aeyrn was forced into a situation that she didn’t want to wholeheartedly explore herself.
And that brings us to good ole Lord Garrington. Oh yeah, he’s the perfect cad you love to hate, but then grow to love. The story arch of Royce’s character from an unfeeling politician at the start of the novel to a loving partner by the end was probably my favorite aspect of the entire book. Lady Aeryn proves to be the catalyst for him to start looking at what his life has become, and not only question where things went wrong in the past, but also wonder how he might want to change things for the future. In spite of his wealth and stature in society, he doesn’t feel good enough for a woman of Aeryn’s integrity. For this very reason Royce goes through most of the novel believing he’ll never succeed in winning her over into his life permanently, and yet this surprisingly doesn’t stop him from ultimately succeeding (with some supplemental help from a lovable friendly butler) to change his ways for the better. His continued self-deprecation was in fact a crucial feature of his growth as a character, as we are convinced by the end that Royce wasn’t merely trying to change on the surface in the hopes of getting Aeryn back in his bed, but rather she inspired him to do some soul-searching of his own to see how he could become the man, friend and brother he once was.
The Game of Politics
Politics play a critical role throughout this entire novel, not only in the logistics of the Factory Act itself, but also for the development of Royce’s character, his evolving romance with Aeryn, as well as the transition of a former friend to villainous foe. I remember at the very start of this novel thinking to myself, “it’s simply not believable that there would be such intense opposition, and from our lead male character no less, to the passing of a resolution which would safeguard women and children” to then having this eye-opening realization of “oh yeah…politics…that definitely tracks”. It was almost comically horrific to see how applicable some of the same debates and futile misunderstandings which permeated the political landscape of the era still ring true today. From Royce thinking the tales of abuse and disfigurement were merely overblown exaggerations not to be believed in the newspapers, to other politicians insisting previous legislation already dealt with the topic, and finally to wealthy businessmen arguing a change in regulations would cripple advancement and economic prosperity. Same arguments, different era.
While these political debates were crucial to capturing our interest in the story as a whole, they also presented two problematic features for our characters that I wish had been addressed or altered in some way. Firstly, as previously discussed, Royce is initially presented to us as…well a bit of an ass. He staunchly opposes the Factory Act, and seemingly delights in arguing with members of the opposition in a way that makes their blood boil. Even though we ultimately see a change in character for Royce later on that makes us (and Aeryn) fall in love with him, the fact he could be so blasé and dismissive of child endangerment at the start of the novel was quite a turn off. We do see a brief mention that Royce believes there are more pressing issues at hand to discuss in Parliament, but we never really get a full insight into what he thinks those topics are. If we could have been privy to one or two other key pieces of legislature that he felt truly passionate about, and perhaps had even put a lot of time and energy into, he could possibly have been a more redeemable character to us, and Aeryn, earlier on. And this brings me to the second, and perhaps more pressing issue that this political opposition presents, which is that it’s a bit hard to understand why Aeryn was so smitten with Royce considering he essentially stood for everything she despised.
Don’t get me wrong, I was 100% rooting for them to come together by the end of the story, but I couldn’t help but feel as though the initial connection on Aeryn’s part for Royce was almost too steeped in sexual attraction at the start. This is a woman who has devoted most of her life to rescuing women and children from oppressive working conditions, and yet after a few tumbles between the sheets with Royce as part of his blackmail scheme she continues to think upon him fondly after he sends her back home. At this point in the story all she knows of his character is that he voraciously opposes the Factory Act every chance he gets, and that he’s an amazingly attentive lover. We as the readers get a few glimpses early on that there is more lying beneath the surface for this complicated man, as we are privy to his inner musings and changing ways, but Aeryn doesn’t necessarily see the same revelations at that point in time. Later on she learns more in conversations with his butler and adopted brother that Royce came from a complicated past that impacted who he became later in life, but during those early days of their interactions she simply knows him as the ruggedly handsome blackmailer who fights her father on the Parliament floor. This is another reason I had hoped we could have seen one other thing early on that Royce was passionate in arguing for, not against, as it could have been something for Aeryn to hold onto beyond their sexual connection as a reason she couldn’t push him out of her mind.
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Final Impressions: This read captured my interest from opening bell, and it was rather difficult to put down at times, as evidenced by the fact I finished reading it in just 3 days. We have a strong female lead, a troubling male lead in want of reform, and a slew of supplementary characters that bring the story to life. Sure, I would have enjoyed one or two more scenes involving Aeryn and Royce engaging together outside of the bedroom, but they were also so focused on each other when they weren’t together that you almost didn’t notice the physical distance. Almost 🙂 The time period setting was truly fascinating, and the political arguments presented were surprisingly reminiscent of those we still see made today across the aisles. This novel does present us with hope though. Hope that true love can not only be found, but that there are people who won’t stand down in standing up for what’s right.
Smut Level: Me oh my is it getting hot in here! There are plenty of instances of bodice ripping and being pushed up against closed doors/walls to make you swoon.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 284 Pages
Nothing is more helpful to an author than receiving a review. It sheds a light on things we might not see ourselves. Be forewarned, there are a few spoilers in this one but hopefully they will want to make you read it more. Thank You, Lauren!
A tale of childhood crushes, friendship, romance, greed and murder. In the Shadow of the Hawthorn takes us on a journey of discovery, and the realization that love can be one of the most powerful things of all.
When I first started reading this novel, it almost felt like I was coming in at the end of a story. A young woman left alone and pregnant, Julia is a talented baker of delicious confections in an upscale London eatery. She’s about to be forced out because of her delicate condition when she’s discovered and brought into the home of a loving older woman and her devoted husband. They treat her like the daughter they never had, and dote upon her and her newborn child as though finally realizing the happily ever after this woman has been waiting for her entire life. However, we soon discover that this isn’t Julia’s story. Instead it will revolve around her daughter, Emma, who follows in her mother’s culinary talents. But what will society permit when this lowly kitchen servant and a wealthy gentleman fall in love? And more importantly, how will one man’s greed come to shatter the perfect world this happy family has created for themselves?
Wait For It…
Not only does this novel seemingly commence with a happily ever after montage, but it takes some time for us to work our way through Emma’s youth into adulthood before we ultimately get to the crux of the story. I constantly felt as though I was waiting around for the other shoe to drop! Although we have to wait a bit before we come across the real turning point of the novel with a tragic crime, something I really appreciated as we proceeded along this journey was that the author manages to avoid some of the more common trappings and tropes you might initially expect to encounter with this kind of read.
For example, Emma and Theo are initially hesitant to give into their obvious feelings for each other. Especially Emma! While they engage in one steamy moment of indulgence, she tries to shut it down almost immediately following their afternoon tryst. After this seemingly final declaration, there was still quite a bit of novel remaining, so I assumed we’d encounter some kind of continual back and forth of we should…no wait we shouldn’t. Rinse and repeat. Or perhaps a misunderstanding where one of them might be tempted to give up on the other as they wait for the perfect timing of when they can finally be together. Instead we are granted with some interesting twists and turns to the plot that result in tragedy, surprise decisions and unexpected discoveries, but thankfully we never really encounter sheer frustration at the choices or actions of our protagonists. It was utterly refreshing!
Beyond the Romance
While this might be a tale of romance, there are two additional complementary themes which play major roles in how the events of this tale evolve: greed and class status. Our primary villain, as well as a few other minor supporting characters, carry out some shockingly dastardly deeds as a result of these motivations. Initially I found it hard to believe what depths some people would go to simply because of money. From denying a son true happiness, to a case of murder and abuse, all due to greed. At one point I thought, well this seems a tad outlandish and over-the-top in terms of a response. As the conclusion of the novel approached however, I had this moment of epiphany where I simply had to remind myself, “well of course this is plausible!!” Countless moments throughout history have been impacted because of these exact trivial impulses, and we still see cases of it to this very day. Honestly, it was a rather sobering realization. And yet, when you see the love and devotion this family and this couple feels for each other it seemingly allows for a ray of sunshine to break through the shadows.
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Final Impressions: This was sort of a deceptive read at the beginning in that it presents itself as a seemingly happy familial tale that manages to hide away from the rules and cruelties of the outside world. However, eventually we see the shadows of tragedy encroach upon these selfless and caring people. While initially hesitant to pursue a relationship, it was refreshing and inspiring to see Emma and Theo stand by each other through it all, never giving up hope that one day they’d be able to come together in a loving embrace. There are a slew of entertaining characters presented in this read, and honestly I’d love if we had the chance to explore their individual stories further in subsequent novels. At times this fabulous supporting cast did detract too much attention away from our lead couple, but overall we have a unique historical romance which proves family is what you make it.
Smut Level: This was surprisingly steamy for a historical read!! Not only do we get a romantic hotel getaway, but we also have a mouth-watering scene in a rustic shed on Theo’s property.
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