Riveting his Attention (novella) by May Williams

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Jim Ferguson hides from his past and focuses on his future until Lady Ella Harwich rivets his attention.

Lady Ella Harwich is capricious. At least that’s what her older brother thinks. However, when it comes to Jim Ferguson, Lady Ella is quite serious. One long, lingering kiss put Jim at the center of her romantic desires and at the top of her list of suitors. And she plans to keep him there. Unfortunately, Jim wants off her list because of a secret past, a career as a shipbuilder instead of a gentleman, and his own inability to resist her. Proving her love—and his worthiness for her love—is Ella’s only way to rivet his attention.

Publisher and Release Date: Turquoise Morning Press: Vintage Category Romance, March 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1858, Victorian England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

The first heroine to surprise and charm me with her extremely determined pursuit of the gentleman of her dreams (and, thus, her own fate and happiness) was Teresa Finch Freeworth in Katharine Ashe’s novella, How to Marry a Highlander. Initially, the heroine’s brazen forthrightness made me cringe, but her innocence and guileless confidence that the hero was the only man for her had me cheering long and loud for her by the end of the story. May Williams has created another confident and headstrong heroine in Lady Ella Harwich in Riveting His Attention, the second book in her Impressions series.

A charming and quirky little romance, this story features an heiress’ pursuit and courtship of an ordinary working class man in the Victorian era. Though the second book in a series (the first book features Ella’s sister, Annabelle and her husband, Edmund, who are prominent secondary characters here) it can be read on its own. Lady Ella is only nineteen but knows exactly who she wants for her future husband: Jim Ferguson, Edmund’s brilliant and up-and-coming designer in his shipbuilding firm. Ella has absolutely no interest in other men (well, except to help make Jim jealous) and she walks a fine line between propriety as demanded by her station and her unabashed quest for Jim.

Ella doesn’t care in the least that she and Jim are from different classes or that Polite Society will not approve a match between them. Or that he is ten years her senior. She boldly plans situations to get Jim alone and declares her love for him and she writes him letters, too. At first, this sounds almost like stalking behavior, but the humorous situations and the charming writing make it often adorable and hilarious. For his part, Jim is very attracted to Ella but feels she is too far above him socially. He also holds a painful secret that he feels makes him unworthy of her love.

But it is a new era in England, when working for a living still holds the stigma of trade and the upper classes did not mingle with merchants. But Edmund, Ella’s progressive brotherinlaw, is a peer who also owns a shipbuilding company. Edmund enjoys the work and isn’t afraid to “dirty his hands” making a living. Ella is a peer’s daughter and used to the finer things in life but she wants to be happy in her marriage above all else.

Edmund and Annabelle approve Ella’s choice but Jim, a self-made man with a mysterious past, isn’t so sure. At times, his reluctance is vexing to read in my free-spirited, twenty-first century context, but he possesses great strength of character that is honorable in relation to its time period. In these delightful moments of the story, when Jim shows Ella the strong and brave man he is by capturing her in his arms for a passionate kiss or defending her against danger, for example, his charisma and appeal shine through and take Ella (and the reader) by surprise.
When a series of dangerous incidents threatens to sabotage the shipbuilding enterprise’s newest and revolutionary venture, and Jim’s unknown past becomes linked to it, Ella assuredly plunges ahead. She fearlessly and, perhaps, carelessly, pursues the mystery and figures it out, along with Jim’s past, adding some nice tension and drama to the romance.

There are some hilarious diary entries written in the first person by Ella sprinkled throughout the story that made me laugh out loud and I had to admire her singleminded and often outrageous determination.

If you love an unconventional heroine who takes her destiny into her own hands, you will enjoy this light and breezy romance.

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