Readers who enjoy historical fiction and particularly Regency romance will certainly take pleasure in this Jane Austen-style novel.
Nineteen-year-old Ariana Forsythe believes she is destined to wed her country village’s 60-year-old rector, much to her parents’ dismay. In an effort to dissuade their daughter from such a union, they send her off to wealthy Aunt Bentley’s posh home in the exclusive neighborhood of Mayfair, London. The year is 1813, and beautiful, sweet Ariana, with her deep-rooted faith and convictions, is unprepared for her sudden role as a woman of high society. She has come to live with Aunt Bentley during “the season” --- a time when young, single women dress in their finest and attend functions for the sole purpose of finding an appropriate suitor. But Ariana has different plans.
Aunt Bentley showers Ariana with elaborate fashions and accessories, determined to ensure that she receives an offer from a wealthy and respectable man of society before the season ends. Ariana, however, desires only to enjoy her stay in London, make some new friends and take in the city’s museums, galleries and architecture. Finding a husband is simply not her heart’s desire, until she looks into the dark, brooding eyes of Mr. Phillip Mornay, “the Paragon.” Men copy his style, and women swoon over him. He is the popular rogue who cannot be caught, until he finds himself drawn to the young, outspoken Miss Forsythe. She will challenge him in ways he never anticipated and eventually lead him to some heartfelt soul-searching.
In the meantime, Mr. Mornay’s attraction to Ariana angers one of the society mothers, who hoped her own daughter might snatch the debonair gentleman and elevate their family’s social stature. The woman’s wrath leads her to fabricate a scandal in hopes of damaging Ariana’s reputation, but Mr. Mornay steps in and beats her at her own game. Ariana can’t stop thinking about this man who, she discovers, is far more upright and kind-hearted than his reputation dictates. But Ariana is resolved to marry only a fellow Christian, and Mr. Mornay is not a true believer. Will she follow her heart and go against her faith? Is it possible to have it all, or must she sacrifice one for the other? When Mr. Mornay asks for Ariana’s hand in marriage, he never imagines the woman he loves will hesitate based on his lack of faith.
Linore Rose Burkard has created a novel as beautiful and elegant as the book’s cover. Any reader can’t help but be transported to the posh parlors and elegant ballrooms of Regency London, where high society means lavish parties, strict rules of etiquette, clear-cut lines between the haves and have-nots, and in some cases, petty hearts hiding beneath layers of silk and lace. An impressive amount of research went into writing this book, so rich in detail and historical references that flow seamlessly throughout the intriguing story. Burkard doesn’t miss a beat in either the Regency-style language or elements. From fashion to furniture and everything in between, her extraordinary command of period detail stays consistent.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on December 1, 2008