It’s 1815, and the threat of another divisive war against Napoleon Bonaparte, the recently exiled emperor of France, hangs over the British Isles and its European Allies. Jessamine Barry, a twenty-year-old vicar’s daughter from a small village in West Sussex, has just arrived in London for her first social season as a marriageable gentlewoman. She’s also heartbroken, having been cast aside by her best friend’s brother–now a successful diplomat and confidant of the Duke of Wellington–for a wealthy earl’s beautiful young widow. Jessamine’s self-prescribed cure for a broken heart? To throw caution to the wind and capture the attentions of the most eligible bachelors in London’s exclusive upper classes, of course.
When Lancelot Marfleet, the ginger-haired, bespectacled second son of a baronet, engages Jessamine in conversation at an elegant dinner party, will she respond to his attentions in kind? Or will she spurn the awkward young vicar–recently returned from a harrowing, life-altering mission trip to India–for the imperious first sons, and heirs-in-waiting, of “the ton” (i.e., British aristocracy)? Ahh, the perplexing dilemmas of Nineteenth Century youth …
Author Ruth Axtell imbues “A Heart’s Rebellion”, an inspirational historical romance novel, with the distinctive light, colors, textures and fragrances of Regency England. Nothing in this astounding work rings false. The writer demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the opulent fashions, conveyances and interior design and architecture of the period. The sights, sounds and ethereal beauty of Hyde Park and Kew Gardens literally leap from the book’s pages, sprinkled judiciously with lush period detail. And the inner workings of a society in which connections to the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the landed gentry alternately elevate and dash the hopes, dreams and ambitions of the members of a burgeoning middle class spring candidly to life.
The sumptuous riches of “A Heart’s Rebellion” don’t end there, however. The author weaves a plot every bit as intricate and intense as the colorful threads woven into the fabric of the luxurious gowns Jessamine wears to elaborate balls and society events throughout the novel. Ms. Axtell paints convincing, sometimes heartbreaking, portraits of the flawed, multi-faceted lead and secondary characters who populate the work. When the antagonists behave inappropriately–and the protagonists make associated errors in judgment–the reader easily comprehends the goals and motivations that prompt the characters into action. The author also uses the prospect of war with France’s displaced emperor to enrich an important secondary plot that culminates with a moment of revelation for one of the main protagonists toward the end of the novel. “A Heart’s Rebellion” is a five-star read. Don’t miss it!
Disclaimer: In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” (16 CFR Part 255), I acknowledge that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the same.