Saturday, February 27, 2016
Set in England in 1877.
Edward Clark has allowed his family to think him dead–only fitting since his younger brother all but had him killed. Unfortunately, that same younger brother is now going after one of the men Clark considers to be his true family, so Clark has returned to England, hoping to stop his brother’s plans.
It had been years since he’d imposed on Patrick. His friend had never breathed a word of the debt that Edward had incurred. He wouldn’t—Patrick wasn’t the sort to parcel out who owed what to whom. That’s why Edward had to keep score on his behalf. Those debts would never balance. All Edward could hope was to keep them at bay.
Frederica "Free" Marshall is doing all the things she set out to do: she runs a paper by women and for women, is pushing for female sufferage, and is living her life on her own terms (as much as a woman can in 1877). Unfortunately, she has made enemies, one of whom is Edward Clark’s brother.
But unlike Clark, Free does have family she can count on.
She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “You’re my favorite brother.” “I’m your only brother,” he said in dark amusement. “You see?” Free spread her arms. “I can’t count on any of the others to even exist when I need them.”
Whether she can learn to count on Clark is something else entirely.
I really liked Clark. He didn’t even trust himself, but those he held dear trusted him, which allowed you to know that he wasn’t truly the scoundrel he made himself out to be.
“Are you really left-handed?” Mr. Marshall asked.
“No. I’ve just been pretending to use my left hand my entire life because I enjoy never being able to work scissors properly.”
What I liked best about Free is that this is not your typicaly historical romance where the heroine has to be rescued by the hero. Free rescues herself, and her fight is not against the hero, but against society.
Please note, however, that the model on the cover does not accurately represent Free. She doesn’t dress in ball gowns.
She wore a dark skirt and a white shirtwaist. But her jacket had a decidedly mannish flair to it—strong lines, military braid at the cuffs, and epaulettes at the shoulders. She wore a man’s bowler hat.
This is a very different story from the other books in the series, but just as good–possibly because it reflects the changes in society that were happening at the time.
But here is why I really like this story. These are excerpts from the Author’s Note.
When I chose to make Free an investigative reporter, I modeled her after a real nineteenth century investigative reporter, Nellie Bly.
That brings me to another nineteenth century woman—Josephine Butler. Butler was a devout Christian who abhorred sexual immorality. You might think that a woman like Butler would keep silent about something like the Contagious Diseases Act. But she was outraged by the double standard in the Acts—a standard that allowed the men who spread the disease to walk free while imprisoning only the women.
Yet another reminder of how women were actually treated in the past.
Published by Courtney Milan