Intrigue, romantic rivalries, and mistaken identities abound in this Victorian drama.
Nathan Sinclair, the protagonist and piano-playing prodigy of Colton’s debut work of historical fiction, doesn’t think he’s anything other than the poor son of a French opera singer. But a meeting with celebrity debutante Jocelyn Charlesworth, so beautiful that “once you gaze upon her countenance, it is impossible to resist staring…disbelieving that a face could be so radiant,” launches an adventure he never could have imagined. Pursued by debt collectors, Nathan decides to become a fugitive, evading the law while performing at the social gatherings of London’s elite. At one such party, he’s introduced to Regina Lancaster, with whom he immediately falls in love. Though not as beautiful as Jocelyn, Regina, who lost her parents at a young age in a fire, helps place orphans with loving families. Meanwhile, Jocelyn, who needs “the perfect excuse to decline introductions and put a halt to [her] tedious letter writing,” hatches a scheme to convince her meddling family she’s courting Nathan, promising him that “since this shall all be a game, our feelings cannot be truly hurt.” Hoping to discredit Nathan, Jocelyn’s brother secretly publishes an article claiming that Nathan’s father was an art forger who was “sent to prison for twenty years, where he died.” Humiliated, Nathan disappears from London’s high society, but he is finally free to propose to his “beloved” Regina. A final twist reveals Nathan’s true parentage and ensures his engagement to Jocelyn, but he already promised himself to Regina. Nathan must choose between Jocelyn’s wealth and beauty and Regina’s virtue. Though this is an exciting read, packed with mysteries and unexpected twists, it lacks charm. The final chapters of the book resolve disappointingly, and women are treated solely as objects for marriage. According to Colton, beauty is a woman’s most valuable trait; the literally “disfigured” Regina is more suited for work than love, while the desired Jocelyn is destined for a life of “passion and pleasure.” The flat treatment of these female characters makes an otherwise engrossing novel unlikable.
An entertaining novel that founders in its superficial treatment of its characters, particularly women.