In a world poised for epic change…
Disowned for marrying beneath her, Eve Kendal has returned to England destitute after her husband’s death and the mysterious disappearance of their savings. She’s looking for survival, not romance. But from London to the Yorkshire countryside to the elegant estate of Thornbrook Park, Eve’s path seems destined to cross that of the dashing but violent Captain Marcus Thorne.
Anything can happen
For Marcus, a return home means facing the demons that drove him to war in the first place. As he and Eve begin a steamy affair, tensions that had been simmering just beneath the surface threaten to explode and shake the very foundations of Thornbrook Park.
Today, we’re delighted to welcome author Sherri Browning to Romantic Historical Reviews. Her new series of novels set in Edwardian England begins with Thornbrook Park, which is released this week. Sourcebooks Casablanca is also generously offering three copies of the paperback to three lucky winners (which unfortunately restricts the giveaway to US/Can only – sorry!)
And now, over to Sherri…
Stripping Down In Edwardian England
Times were changing fast for the Edwardians. The turn of the century brought them more than new leadership (a reclusive Victoria was succeeded by her gregarious son Albert after her death in 1901), it brought rapid development with Industrialization and a middle class longing to extend their reach into business, politics, research, and entertainment.
The first Nobel prizes were awarded during the Edwardian era, a time when Einstein was doing some of his most important work, the Wright brothers were experimenting with flight, and telephones and automobiles were becoming increasingly common.
With the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, the upper class became more interested in leisure sports like tennis and lawn bowling. Working women needed clothes more fitting to their constant movement and railway travel, leading to shorter skirts and less restrained silhouettes.
Corsets became less and less popular, giving way to looser chemises and knickers, pantaloons, camisoles, and frillies (light slips to replace heavy petticoat layers). Edwardian housewives began to wear lingerie in the bedchamber, something previously reserved for courtesans‘ boudoirs.
Women wanted more rights, too. The Edwardian era brought on an increasing awareness of the plight of the poor. Domestic servants were often put in the position of accepting advances from their employers, and abortion, while illegal, became a common form of birth control for young women desperate to keep their jobs and avoid the poverty that came with unemployment. Socialism and Suffrage became hot topics of the day.
Still, the Edwardian Era was known as a time of peace and plenty. The British class system remained rigid, and the upper class enjoyed a golden age under a king who liked to be out among his people or traveling the world, always after a good time. Grand houses like Thornbrook Park became increasingly expensive to maintain, but would manage to thrive for another decade or so until George V and WWI brought new, more drastic changes to England and to the world.
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2014
Time and Setting: Edwardian London and Yorkshire, 1906
Genre: Historical Romance with a mystery element
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
It’s 1906, the dawn of a new century, and modern conveniences are popping up in everyday life from high-speed trains that can transport one from Yorkshire to London in a day to the loudness and dirtiness of motor cars. New-to-me author Sherri Browning captures these pictures of a new era with a pleasant story and interesting characters.
Eve Kendal is a widow whose husband, a British army captain, died while they were stationed in India. Her marriage to Ben was an affectionate love match that alienated her from her family. She has returned to England because her widow’s pension is not enough for her continued survival and she also needs to inquire into their finances with their solicitor.
Eve’s best girlhood friend, Sophia, the only person from her past who she is still in touch with, invites her to use Averford House, her London property, while she’s in town on her way to Thornbrook Park. Sophia has also kindly offered Eve the dower house for as long as she needs.
While at Averford House, she meets Marcus, Sophia’s handsome brother-in-law, in a drunken stupor in the middle of the night. She is immediately attracted to his well-toned body but shrugs it off as being without a man’s attentions in awhile. She watches over this handsome stranger whom she knows fought in the Second Boer War, but she disappears in the morning before he awakens and he can thank her.
Marcus is recovering from the traumatic effects of war, what we call post-traumatic stress disorder today. He feels great anger and unleashes his pent-up energy by prizefighting. His best friend, William Cooper, perished in a tragic war accident and Marcus now watches over William’s family, helping them financially as well as emotionally; in fact, he uses his prizefighting money to help support them.
Marcus doesn’t get along with his brother Gabriel, the Earl of Averford, Sophia’s husband, as there is a rivalry between them since childhood. As a result, Marcus has long avoided visiting the family estate, Thornbrook Park.
At Sophia’s request, Eve agrees to pen an eloquent letter to convince Marcus to visit them. Sophia really wants to match Marcus with her younger sister, Alice, a bluestocking who has no interest whatsoever in marriage.
When Marcus arrives, he quickly realizes several things: that it was Eve who wrote the persuasive letter, that Eve is his mystery “angel” who tended him during the night at Averford House, and that he is to be set up with Alice. Not very exciting nor revelatory but the engaging writing made the story pleasant to read.
When Eve realizes that Sophia means to match Marcus with Alice, she makes herself scarce since she is too attracted to him and doesn’t wish to alienate her best friend. Of course, that doesn’t last long and they begin a furtive affair that both think is only temporary. The romance between Eve and Marcus, while lovely, is not very sexually intense; it’s more of a low simmer between two mature adults who enjoy each other’s company and conversation.
It’s very sweet how, when Eve senses that Marcus is becoming upset, she comforts him by touching his arm, holding and squeezing his hand under the table, or changing the subject altogether. She acts like a supportive and comforting wife.
Literary allusions are plentiful here and are something both Eve and Marcus have in common as both are great readers. Lovers of classic literature will enjoy these nice touches in the story.
Eve’s memories of her years in India are vividly brought to life in this description:
“Home. How she had missed it all! In India, there was dust. Sand. Brown earth, water like clay. The people had added color, though, wrapped in their hand-dyed silks and cottons, the same colorful fabrics that made up the tents of the bazaars.”
And the descriptions of Thornbrook Park’s interiors are prettily rendered.
“…soft peach-colored walls, mauve velvet drapes, and an enormous window overlooking the gardens. There were two fireplaces and three separate seating areas including a grand piano in the far corner of the room. With heavy wood accents, columns, large carved mahogany mantels, oriental carpets over wood floors, pastel-striped and floral upholstered furnishings, and fresh flower arrangements all around, the room was pleasing to both masculine and feminine sensibilities.”
Secondary characters contribute color, life, and humor to this very sedate Edwardian romance. Aunt Agatha, Marcus’ eccentric aunt, a self-proclaimed medium, makes startling predictions that her family humorously accepts. Sophia is a bit of a staid and proper married woman; I found her sister Alice much more interesting and fun. And Gabriel is your typical pompous aristocrat yet he does seem to love his wife.
There is a mystery plot involving Eve’s missing money running alongside the romance that I find a bit convoluted and, at times, borders on the Nancy Drew-ish when Eve even takes it into her own hands to try to solve. And the underlying tension between Gabriel and Marcus is both twisted and a little shocking. The reasons behind Sophia’s and Gabriel’s matchmaking scheme are also a little farfetched to me.
But the writing is articulate and flows well, and I did very much enjoy the romance between Eve and Marcus although it wasn’t passionate enough for my taste.
If you enjoy a calm and pleasant love story with a mystery element set in the Edwardian era, you will enjoy this story. This is the first book in a series of the same name and is being marketed to Downton Abbey fans.
About the Author
Sherri Browning Erwin, best known for critically acclaimed classic mash-ups Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations, also writes paranormal romance and historical romance as Sherri Browning. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Sherri has lived in Massachusetts and Michigan, but is now settled with her family in Simsbury, Connecticut. Watch for her return to historical romance with the upcoming Thornbrook Park series.
Her books have been mentioned in People magazine, USA Today, Seventeen, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal blog, UK’s Telegraph and Argus, and once, as the subject of a New York Times cartoon. She remains a diehard Patriots fan, a proud member of Red Sox Nation, an adventurous eater, avid traveler, and a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World.