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Monday Puzzler > September 23, very early

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message 1: by Dls (last edited Sep 21, 2019 07:06PM) (new)

Dls | 2065 comments Mod
September 21, 2019
I love how this book is truly a historical romance in that the conflict that challenges the romance is specific to that time and place and very real. In some ways it is the best historical romance I know.

“Where are your half-siblings?” he asked. “Why haven’t you ever seen them?”

“I don’t know where they are.” The emptiness with which she spoke those simple words bespoke a void of long standing. “After [herone’s mom] left, Mr Benton found her and took the children. He swore she would never see them again. He didn’t lie.”

He could not conceive of a mother allowing her children to be taken from her. “Why didn’t she care enough to fight for them?”

“Care enough?” she echoed. “She broke her heart with caring. She stood outside the door to his home each day for weeks and each day the police came and took her away and each day she came back. She kept coming back until Mr. Benton found a magistrate and had her committed to an asylum.”

She placed her hands on the desk, too carefully. “My father was among the directors overseeing the asylum. He met her there and immediately realized she was not insane, or perhaps insane, but only with grief, and he made it his cause celebre to have her released. But by the time she’d been freed, Mr. Benton had emigrated to Australia.

It was inconceivable, barbaric.

“They can’t have put her in an asylum for wanting to see her children.”

Heroine’s sad, answering smile was much wiser than her years should have allowed.

“Laws have changed” hero protested. “Today a woman has the right to sue for divorce, she can enter contracts, she can own property—“

“But not her children” heroine broke in. Seeing his uncertainty, she continued. “Legitimate children are property, property a man owns. Should a man decide his wife is unfit, he can remove her children from her and the law stands behind that decision.”

Yes, he thought numbly. How could he have forgotten? The long school months, the even longer weeks of vacation when he and other aristocratic orphans haunted Harrow’s empty yards. He’d been property, all right. Paltry property. Dross goods.

Heroine’s gaze was fastened on her hands. They were clasped tightly now, with the white-knuckled fervency of a religious zealot at prayer.

“There has to be something she could have done,” he insisted.

“No. A woman can’t even seek redress. She has no recourse except—“ She broke off abruptly, flushing.

He understood then, as clearly as if heroine had explained. He recognized in heroine’s confused abashment the legacy of sadness and bitterness left by her mother, a woman falsely imprisoned in an insane asylum, her children stolen from her. He looked at heroine and knew as certainly as if she’d told him her mother’s mode of revenge. She had made sure that Mr. Benton never had a legal relationship with a woman again.

Outside the rain fell softly. Inside the candle lights studded the night-dark room with stars. “They were never divorced.”

She shook her head. Didn’t heroine understand what had been done to her? The selfishness of it appalled him.

“Why not?” he asked. “She could easily have rid herself of him on the grounds of abandonment. Why didn’t she marry your father?”

“Can’t you understand?” heroine lifted her gaze. Her eyes caught the candlelight, reflected back the golden flame like a cat’s. “An unwed mother retains sole custody for her child. My mother had already lost two children. She’d never risk losing another.”

“You will never marry, heroine?”

“No.” Her voice had dropped to a whisper. “Not until the laws are changed. Not until a woman’s safety and health and future are deemed as important as a man’s. Not until she has the same rights regarding her children that her husband has.”

“And if you should fall in love, couldn’t you trust your future to your husband’s care?” he asked. “Isn’t that love?”

“Would you trust your future to a wife?” she answered bitterly.

“Its not the same thing.”

“No. It’s not,” she agreed with cold deliberation. “You’d only need to demonstrate your ‘trust’ until a time it’s proven unjustified. Then the law grants you the means to rid yourself of your wife while keeping that part of the union you still value, your heirs. Of course, whether those children are better left in their mother’s care than in yours is a matter never considered, much less addressed.”

“And you think it better for them to live with the stigma of illegitimacy?” he asked incredulously. “To have doors shut in their faces? Their futures left to uncertainty? To be deemed unworthy because of their birth?”

“Is…”She lifted her chin. “Is that how you see me?”

“Damn it to hell, heroine,” he said harshly. “It doesn’t matter how I see you. It matters how society see your children. I would never allow my child to suffer like that.”

Much later in the book, he says:
"I love you, heroine. But I can't live with you unwed."

She listened carefully, finding more than hopes and promises in his voice, finding truth.

After a moment he continued. "I would not be worthy of the name "father" if I were to give any child created out of our love anything less than all the protection and benefit and advantages I could bequeath it. You wouldn't ask me to love our child less than I love you."

message 2: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1138 comments ooooh! I have read this one but I can not for the life of me remember who wrote it or the name of the book!

message 3: by Chocolatesoup (new)

Chocolatesoup | 358 comments I don't know this one

message 4: by Daniellegn (new)

Daniellegn | 199 comments it sounds really good!

message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 992 comments Damaged young woman and incarcerated older one. Very Victorian. Who are they?

message 6: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2065 comments Mod
It’s my Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway.
It also has a great set of letters.

message 7: by Chocolatesoup (new)

Chocolatesoup | 358 comments uh oops I read this one years ago and remember really liking it.

message 8: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1138 comments Oh good choice!!!

message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan (shaydock) | 654 comments Excellent, now on my pile of books

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