In the latest novel in Kennedy’s (Bobbin’s Journal, 2017, etc.) Victorian Collection, a star-crossed birth leads to unexpected romantic entanglements and family secrets.
The Earl of Grayton is accustomed to a life circumscribed by the social constraints of his upper-class lifestyle. While traveling to his boyhood estate, he meets with a lower-class farmer named William Whitmore and his wife, Anne. Grayton has a connection to the Whitmores; the night that his son, Henry, and their daughter Sarah were born, “two shooting stars crossed paths in the heavens,” and King George III believed that this was an auspicious omen. Hoping to foster a connection between the two children, Grayton entrusts his own son’s upbringing to the Whitmores. His daughters, Margaret, Mary, Victoria, and Elizabeth, are initially reluctant to befriend the other family; however, they all grow closer after Grayton’s wife, Elizabeth, dies in a tragic accident. Margaret is interested in medicine and uses her skills to help the Whitmore family. When Grayton meets Anne’s sister, Jane Stewart, he falls in love, but he’s worried about how society might react to their marriage. Teenage Henry intends to propose to 15-year-old Sarah, as well, so Grayton turns to King George III for his blessing. Unbeknownst to Grayton, the request may unlock a family secret. Kennedy’s novel offers an appealing mix of romance and mystery, bolstered by strong character development and unexpected plot twists. The fast-paced narrative includes a large cast of fictional and historical characters. Grayton and the Whitmores are strong leads whose friendship endures despite their keen awareness of their society’s class structure. Kennedy deftly and sensitively explores the culture’s expectations for both families. Her inclusion of King George III and his wife is clever and occasionally playful, and a brief prologue offers additional historical insight and context. The romances between Grayton and Jane, and Henry and Sarah, are poignant, and Kennedy skillfully ties these relationships to a mystery that involves a friendship with the king.
An entertaining historical novel with just the right amount of romance and mystery.