An injured English nobleman assumes a new identity under the care of a ministering angel.
Celich’s richly atmospheric debut novel opens in the early 1800s with a funeral: The third earl of Hartwell has suddenly died, and one of those standing in the rain as he’s installed in the family vault is his heir, William Devreaux. William’s sadness is compounded by two things: First, he seethes with the knowledge that his father scorned his wastrel gambler’s life in London. And second, he’s tense with guilt because his father almost certainly caught his fatal illness from his visiting son. The combination makes inheriting Ashbourne Park a nightmare that the young fourth earl is desperate to escape. But when he and his horse are caught in a storm and accidentally ride off a cliff, William is badly injured. He wakes up in a strange place, being watched over by a group of concerned, kindly strangers in a Staffordshire village. The band is led by a compassionate young woman named Charissa Armitage, who initially infuriates William by praying devoutly for his full recovery. His leg injury is severe enough to keep him bedridden for weeks as the unexpected guest of the religious woman, her aunt, and Sir Godfrey Scrivener, the owner of the estate, who has every intention of making Charissa his wife. Confronted with this world so different from both the one back at Ashbourne and the one he left behind in London, William suddenly yearns for a new start, deciding to concoct a false name and background. Celich skillfully draws out the story of William’s coming to a new understanding of himself—and his growing attraction to Charissa’s simple faith. The novel’s Christian undertones are subtly done, and the author does a wonderfully accomplished job of incorporating her research about the Regency era without ever making it heavy-handed. Her concentration is far more weighted toward the sparring personalities of her main characters, who are very convincingly sketched. Readers of Regency romances should find a welcoming world in these pages and hope Celich writes another novel soon.
A smooth and ultimately redemptive Christian historical tale.