Old Sins, Long Shadows by B.D. Hawkey

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A Cornish Victorian romance set against the backdrop of the magnificent Bosvenna Estate, with eccentric rural characters and the sweeping hills of the dramatic Bodmin Moor. Janey Carhart’s story is a tale of obsession, jealousy and love.

At the age of nine, Janey’s younger sisters die from scarlet fever and her grief stricken mother blames Janey for their deaths. Financial difficulties and a desire to win back her mother’s love, forces Janey to enter service where she quickly rises through the ranks.

Upon her arrival to the elegant Cornish Country Estate, she successfully secures a position of a lady’s maid for the wealthy and powerful Brockenshaw family. An exchange of letters between Lady Brockenshaw and her son ignites Janey’s interest, but Janey’s feelings for this mysterious and charming gentleman soon change her life forever.

Yet, old sins cast long shadows and not only does Janey’s mother’s wrath affect Janey’s life, there are others whose sins risk destroying her, the people she cares about and her capacity to love again.

Publisher and Release date: B.D Hawkey, August 2013

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Cornwall, 1868
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Julie Whiteley

Although a little young for such a high position in service, Janey applies to be lady’s maid to Lady Brockenshaw, a lady nearly blind and in fragile health. Janey makes a good impression and gets the job.

It doesn’t take long for Janey and Lady Brockenshaw to connect and become close, their relationship becoming like that of mother and daughter.

Lady Brockenshaw’s son James runs the estate and is a very handsome man with considerable charm. His good looks and intelligent conversations with Janey cause her to develop romantic feelings for him. Janey is also drawn to Daniel, who lives on an adjoining farm, but she is warned to stay away from him because he has been accused of murder, although it was never proven.

As Janey settles into her new position, she begins to see a side of James that is not at all pleasant. Not only that, the infuriating Daniel warns her about him. But, when the situation with James escalates, Janey is forced to make some really tough choices. Before she winds up in dire straights, Daniel steps up and offers her another alternative. But what of the murder allegations? Will Janey be going from one bad situation to another? Can she trust Daniel?

This story was very absorbing and at times reminded me of the historical romance novels at the peak of their popularity in the 1990’s. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not talking about “Bodice Rippers”, but stories that were not just a lot of light-hearted fluff. This novel has substance. We are shown the difficulties of life experienced by a young women virtually on her own in the world and attempting to be all things to all people. Her mother blames her for the death of her sisters, Janey feels she must please her employer and the staff at Brockenshaw and if need be, Master James or else she will be forced into a workhouse.

There are no fancy balls, or gowns, or focus on society and propriety. This life is rural and depends on farming. Daniel owns his farm outright which is unusual, since most farmland at the time would have been rented from the local landowners. This gives him an advantage, but he is still the subject of many rumors. He is not only successful in business, but Daniel has a sensitivity about him toward people, especially Janey. While he isn’t really the sort of hero who makes grand gestures, I thought he was awesome. He is honest with Janey and with his feelings, although he does struggle with tactfulness at times.

Janey has a lot going against her and her back is against the wall. She and Daniel get off to a rocky start and face many challenges in their relationship. When the shadow of Daniel’s past comes back to haunt them, it’s Janey’s turn to step up and support him.

The author did a fantastic job of describing the scenery. The Cornish landscape and farmland is not a usual setting for novels, so I enjoyed this change of pace. I loved the realizations that Janey came to about the people in her life, and the way that maturity that came with finding out the true meaning of friendship, family and love gave her the strength to return those feelings. Daniel also learns that things are not always what they appear to be on the surface and despite his difficulties with trust, he comes to see that Janey is someone he can depend on through good and bad times.

The secondary characters were also well drawn. I felt true anger towards James and pity for his mother, although she was frustrating as well.

A quick note about the heat level. The actual romantic love scenes were really a level 1, but there were some other adult situations that are sexual and were rather difficult passages to read. I wanted to be sure that anyone looking for a “sweet” romance would not be misled. While this story is ultimately uplifting and certainly has the required Happy Ever After, the journey to that point is a little rough.

I recommend this book to not only lovers of historical romance but to those that enjoy historical fiction as well.