Posted in: willaful reviews
Tags:Anna Cowan, debut, Georgian, Historical
The intricate plotting and exquisite writing of this debut evokes comparisons to Julia Ross, one of my favorite authors of historical romance. Cowan doesn’t fit everything together as seamlessly as Ross’s best work, but she certainly creates a rich, vivid story.
Kit Sutherland is desperate to end The Duke of Darlington’s affair with her married sister Lydia, but the price he asks is a strange one: he’ll accompany her to her country home… and he’ll do so in the guise of a woman. “Lady Rose” is as beguiling as the Duke himself, and soon has the entire family eating out of her hand; Kit is the only one who knows him as a man — and also the only one who sees the fears and traumas that haunt him. Raised to be so far above anyone else he is literally untouchable, the irresistibly charming Jude is deeply troubled and lonely.
“He couldn’t think of a single person he could call to his side. A single person he didn’t lie to, or use, or mislead. A single person who would look at him and really see him.”
I had trouble getting into this at first, because it’s the sort of book I find intimidating – one in which there are many complicated plots and undercurrents, and everyone seems to understands them except me. But I kept at it, and as I got increasingly interested in the characters, the threads started to come together. Jude is one of those fascinating, charismatic game players that are so intriguing to read about — “the man who is always five steps ahead” Kit calls him — and he more than meets his match in the fiercely intelligent, fiercely determined, just plain fierce Kit, who is as strong as he is vulnerable. Jude’s cross-dressing is more than a disguise; the story deliberately plays with traditional romance gender roles in scenes like this: “She had never imagined it would feel like this with a man — this meeting of two bodies, each holding and being held. They were the same height, equally strong. Her eyes drank in the sight of her rough skin against his flawless white.” Without spoilers, I love where Cowan eventually takes this play, which becomes as much about Kit as it is about Jude.
This might be a five star read, but the ethics of Jude and Kit’s behavior troubled me somewhat, and I found the plotting still a little uneven. Four stars for the memorable characters, passion, and originality. It is currently only available as an ebook; you can buy it here.
(Published by Penguin. Review copy provided by NetGalley)