~ About the Book ~
When Katherine “Kit” FitzGilbert turned her back on London society more than a decade ago, she determined never to set foot in a ballroom again. But when business takes her to London and she’s forced to run for her life, she stumbles upon not only a glamorous ballroom but also Graham, Lord Wharton. What should have been a chance encounter becomes much more as Graham embarks on a search for his friend’s missing sister and is convinced Kit knows more about the girl than she’s telling.
After meeting Graham, Kit finds herself wishing things could have been different for the first time in her life, but what she wants can’t matter. Long ago, she dedicated herself to helping women escape the same scorn that drove her from London and raising the innocent children caught in the crossfire. And as much as she desperately wishes to tell Graham everything, revealing the truth isn’t worth putting him and everyone she loves in danger.
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: #1 Haven Manor Series
Release date: 5 June 2018
Publisher: Bethany House
~ Excerpt ~
“You haven’t told me your name.” Graham looked directly into her eyes, willing them to stay on his own so he could try to guess what she was thinking and feeling. At a glance, she seemed simple and straightforward, but her eyes hid things. They were tight around the edges, as if she couldn’t quite completely relax.
Her gaze kept his but remained shuttered, granting him nothing. “No, I haven’t.”
No name, then. “Are you new to London?”
Her gaze dropped from his to the wall on his right. “No.”
She was lying. This got more interesting by the minute. She kept staring at the wall, though, tilting her head as if the blank expanse were fascinating. “Do you like green?”
“I beg your pardon?” Her gaze snapped back to his.
Graham wanted to grin at catching her by surprise but nodded to her dress instead. “Your dress. Do you like green?”
“Oh. I suppose.” She slid a section of skirt between her fingers. For the first time, a bit of hesitancy flitted across her face. “It reminds me who I am.”
Someone beyond the trees laughed loudly. The woman in green pressed herself against the wall, dropping her skirt so that she could wrap both arms around the grey bundle and hold it tightly.
Graham drained his lemonade in frustration. They were sure to be discovered at any moment. Her skirt might be easily looked over, blending in somewhat with the color of the trees. His black trousers, however, would soon be noticed in the small gap between the pot and the bottom branches of the shrub.
“May I call on you?” When was the last time he’d asked permission to call on a woman? Years, if ever. The question always raised impossible expectations.
She didn’t answer. Simply stared at him, mouth slightly agape.
“Graham, there you are!”
Graham looked over his shoulder to see a man in pristine evening black strolling around the edge of the trees. Now Oliver decided to make an appearance? Where was the man when Graham was drowning in boring conversation about dowries and marriage settlements? Honestly, if Oliver weren’t one of Graham’s closest friends, he’d push him into one of the potted trees.
Oliver’s brows drew together. “What are you doing back here? Didn’t you know you’re supposed to be on the other side of the trees, where you can be found by all the people who need you to inject levity and hope into their miserable lives?”
The reference to an old love letter Graham had received while attending Cambridge made him groan even as he smiled. He should never have shown that letter to Oliver. “If you must know, I’m replenishing my well of levity by talking with—”
His words trailed off as he turned to find the space beside him empty. The woman had vanished once more.
~ Review ~
I very much enjoyed the first 85% of this book. The opening chapters held the promise of a romance with a little bit of intrigue and quite a bit of fun when Kit caught the eye of Lord Wharton, a viscount who finds himself thoroughly bored by the predictability of his current social life. Working in counterpoint to this light-hearted side of the story is Haven Manor, a place where Kit and her two compatriots, Daphne and Jess, devote their lives to raising children who might have had a very different life if they hadn’t been born on the wrong side of the blanket. These two elements struck a great balance, and I found myself thoroughly enchanted by Graham as he won over the children and slowly chiselled away at Kit’s walls.
As I moved into the second half of the story, I was even more intrigued by the direction it took, throwing in some surprises and giving both Kit and Graham the opportunity to examine their situations in life and their motivation for what they were (or weren’t) doing. I can’t say too much without revealing spoilers, but it included the kind of spiritual thread that made me sit up and take notice—much as it did to Kit and Graham. I do have to say, though, that while I agreed with the spiritual wisdom Graham imparted at one particular point, it did feel a little odd coming out of his mouth. I’m not sure whether it was because it felt a little too modern for the setting or whether it was because it required a deeper spiritual understanding than Graham had shown to that point; maybe a bit of both. But I’ll move on.
The disappointment for me was the ending. It felt rushed, but I also felt Graham was extremely high-handed in the steps that he took to resolve things. His genuine enthusiasm and belief that he was doing the best thing for all concerned tempered my annoyance a little bit, but I couldn’t help feeling indignant on Kit’s behalf. Especially since she didn’t seem indignant at all. I’m pretty sure I would have been if I had been in Kit’s place. And for such a promising beginning to the romance, I felt it fizzled at the end. I enjoyed their relationship more in the middle of the story (and that super sweet first kiss) than I did their relationship at the end.
Finally, 1% of my disappointment is reserved for the Southernisms that crept in, such as using ‘drug’ as the past tense of ‘drag’ and the phrase, “they’re going to try to figure out who all you have contracts with.” I try not to be too critical of Americanisms that creep into English-set novels, but Southernisms tax my tolerance a little too much, not to mention they yank me out of the story (no pun or bipartisanship intended)!
But as I say, I did enjoy the majority of the book, and in light of the developments that took place, I’m keen to see where the next story takes me.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ Previous Books in the Series ~
Don’t miss the free novella introducing this series!
~ About the Author ~
Kristi is the RITA® award winning author of Regency romance novels from a Christian worldview. Her books include the award winning Hawthorne House series as well as the newly published first stories of the Haven Manor series. Beyond writing, she is also speaker, teaching classes in writing as well as Biblical and spiritual topics. She has spoken to writers’ groups, schools, and young women’s groups at churches.
When she is not writing or interacting with her readers, Kristi spends time with her family and her church. A graduate of Georgia Tech with a computer science degree, she can also be found fiddling with her computer in her free time. A born lover of stories she is also an avid reader. From very young she dreamed of sharing her own stories with others and praises God daily that she gets to live that dream today.