A romantic historical novel that examines a clash of classes in 19th-century England.
When the eighth Earl of Staton dies, it paves the way for the succession of his brother, Richard Meriwether, who isn’t generally considered by his family, or by himself, to be suitable for the throne. In fact, he’s so daunted by his new position he seems eager to shirk his duties. He’s also unwed and lacks a prospective heir, though rumors swirl that he might have already fathered an illegitimate child. His niece, Daphne, raised in Connecticut, returns to Hembry Castle with her father, Frederick, who’s taken over editing the Daily Observer. Frederick is known as “the wayward” because he exiled himself to study literature at Oxford University and then made a life in America to avoid the stuffy trappings of aristocracy. His daughter, Daphne, was raised according to this ideal, and she struggles to acclimate herself to her strange new environment that’s also her birthright. She meets Edward, a reporter and rising literary star who works for Frederick; the two are immediately drawn to each other, but because his grandparents work as help at the castle, the two are separated by a yawning chasm of socioeconomic disparity. Also, Edward is already engaged to Christina, though the new situation challenges his feelings for her: “He had convinced Christina that Miss Meriwether was nothing to him. Now he only had to convince himself.” Allard (History Will Be Kind, 2015, etc.) is a seasoned author, and her experience shows in both the lapidary prose and the sensitivity with which she treats class division. Edward, for example, comes from humble origins, but he’s shown to be actually more comfortable with upper-class stodginess than Daphne is, as he grew up in the castle. Daphne’s father, meanwhile, is marvelously progressive, but it’s intriguingly unclear if he’s completely liberated himself from his affluent station. Overall, this is a delightful, often funny story that also serves as a gimlet-eyed study of class division and the possibility of its transcendence.
An unpretentiously philosophical assessment of class and love.