One of my hands-down favorite historical fictions. Not just of 2014. Of all the historical fiction that I've read.
A sheltered, spoiled young woman (FOne of my hands-down favorite historical fictions. Not just of 2014. Of all the historical fiction that I've read.
A sheltered, spoiled young woman (Frances Irvine) marries a principled, honorable, practical doctor (Edwin Matthews) not because she loves him (she barely tolerates him) but to escape her life (Frances is penniless after her father’s death). Frances is quite sheltered and spoiled and it takes her losing everything for her to realize how wrong she’s been all along. She spends a long time thinking that Edwin is a grasping, ambitious man who wants to display her for her accomplishments and use her for her connections. She doesn’t realize until almost too late that he's not that person at all
Edwin works in South Africa and brings Frances back with him. On the steamship to South Africa, Frances falls in love with the handsome, magnetic, passionate William Westbrook. William is cousin to South Africa’s richest and most powerful man. William may be incredibly charming, but he also has the selfishness of a spoiled child. He will do whatever he wants and doesn’t care about anyone else. He is all about control. And anyone with half an ounce of sense would see that he wants to possess Frances as a pretty bauble, as he is incapable of loving anyone but himself. But Frances is a fool and doesn’t recognize that the best she’d ever be is a mistress – he would never marry her. William has no morals and is willing to do anything to get what he wants.
Edwin, meanwhile, is honorable and moral even when it could financially ruin him. He fights to get the smallpox epidemic recognized in Kimberly (the diamond mining town). Edwin becomes distant from his wife when the marriage becomes strained, but ultimately Frances buckles down, becomes useful and practical, sees Edwin for the wonderful man he is, and they fall in love.
The romance in this book has all the romantic aspects of a love/hate relationship with the addition of the arranged-marriage trope. Plus, the heroine slowly realizes that the man she first discounted is actually kind and brave and honorable and exactly the man she wants to be with. I don't know why, but I love these elements. This is pretty much the same plot as The Painted Veil, by the way, and I loved that too (I don't think this similarity is intentional, by the way).
The portrayal of colonial South Africa, the slowly building romance, and the growth of Frances were all beautifully handled. An incredibly impressive debut from an author to watch....more