The House of Women by Anne Brear


Publishers’ Blurb:

As the Victorian Age draws to a close, lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own. The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her.  Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match. Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life. All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?


Romantic Historical Fiction

Late Victorian

Heat Level: 1

Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars


Anne Brear has a wonderful understanding of Victorian family dynamics where fathers were detached patriarchs who saw duty and loyalty as more important than love, and daughters as tools to be used for personal gain and business advancement. This novel makes for an exciting read and the Woodruff family is composed of interesting, well drawn characters with both faults and endearing qualities which made me care about each one. Their various problems force Grace into situations which put a strain on her socially and financially, but she meets each challenge beautifully.

Grace isn’t perfect, she inwardly rages against the role thrust upon her, and only love for her sisters keeps her stoic. She’s angry with her weak but abused mother for giving up, and at times she is close to breaking point herself. These qualities make her so human, I really felt for Grace in her dilemmas –and as for her monster of a father, well!

I have read several of Anne Brear’s novels and find them all fluid, concise and with just the right combination of drama and emotion.  The House of Women is historical fiction and family saga at its best in that it is genteel and romantic in places but also raw and uncompromising in others. It’s beautifully written and I recommend this novel.


Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ is being published by Claymore Books in 2013


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