Here’s the premise: Izzy Farrington, the daughter of a baron, is packed off to an impoverished spinster aunt in Wales to reflect upon her wilful refusal of several respectable offers of marriage, in the hope that her miserable surroundings will bring her to her senses. But Aunt Eugenia isn’t quite what she expected, and although she finds life very different in Wales, after some amusing mishaps, she begins to find much to interest her. One particular interest is Rhys Williams, a businessman who draws Izzy into his world of wool and sheep-breeding and all manner of intriguing subjects previously unknown to a gently brought up daughter of the aristocracy.
This part of the book is a delight, evoking a totally convincing corner of the Regency world (Wales is portrayed as a wonderfully romantic place, while also wet, wild and windswept!), and both Izzy’s reaction to her new situation, and the reactions of her new relations and friends are very believable. The story takes a more conventional twist when Izzy’s father, Lord Bedley, discovers that spinster Aunt Eugenia is actually married, and to a solicitor (the horror!), and whisks Izzy back to London to be respectably courted again.
But while this could have been a dull transition to conventional Regency tropes, the author gives the reader an unusual but brilliantly portrayed insight into the utterly stifling life of a young lady. Izzy is provided with every material comfort, and surrounded by friends and family who all (in their various ways) want the best for her, but she has no freedom whatsoever. Cut off from the man she was falling in love with, and not even sure yet of her own heart, she has no way to see him or even convey a message to him. She is chaperoned wherever she goes. The governess will report any untoward conversation with a stranger. The servants will be fired if they help her. Even her correspondence is opened by her father (and yes, this is completely true to the era). And, worst of all, she’s constantly pressured to accept one of the suitors her parents approve of. How she manages, despite all these restrictions, to avoid an unwanted betrothal, communicate with Rhys and decide her future for herself take up the rest of the book, and beautifully done it is too.
The minor characters are all wonderfully drawn, but the star of the show is Izzy herself, an intelligent and resourceful girl who starts off on completely the wrong foot in her new home, but quickly learns to adapt. Another wonderful read from Jayne Davis. Highly recommended. Five stars.