Dear Ms. Densley:
Historical romance reviews are hard to come by not just at Dear Author but around the internet. In an email exchange with Jayne, we joked about putting a bounty on historical reviews meaning we’d pay extra for every historical review that appeared in our inbox. But change starts at home so I pledged I would read and review one new historical every month in 2014.
I started early with The King of Threadneedle Street. It was the number one Victorian romance over at Amazon and it was a bargain price at 99c. The concept is tantalizing but the execution left a lot to be desired.
Alysia Villier is the daughter of a famous courtesan who married well enough to die a Countess but because of Alysia’s notorious parentage, the likelihood of her marrying well is low. Or so we are told. Alysia’s position in the Courtenay household is bizarre. She serves as almost Lord Courtenay’s secretary cum steward, sorting correspondence, sending out replies, handling tenant complaints. She also plans the wedding of Lord Courtenay’s daughter to Duke of Belmont.
Andrew asks his father “Where is the steward? Who is the mistress of the house? Is my mother so addle-brained that Alysia must manage your estate?”
Unfortunately for Andrew, Alysia and the reader, there is no response.
In a convoluted set up, Alysia grows up in the home of Marquees of Courtenay where she and the heir, Andrew Tilmore, Lord Preston, share a childhood romance. Lord Courtenay does not want his bloodlines tainted with the likes of Alysia and he warns her off constantly. Initially a bargain is struck to send Alysia to another home to ostensibly be a companion to Viscountess Harringer but really she’ll be the son’s mistress.
When Andrew suggests a different position for her – any position she desires whether it be lover, mistress, or wife – Alysia refuses. She’d rather, I guess, be the mistress to some stranger than be with her childhood beloved because she fears his social ostracization. Andrew continues to pursue Alysia throughout the story as she runs from him and his desire to give her a legitimate place in society, one beside the man she purports to love.
To tarnish her even more, Alysia goes to Paris where she becomes an actress and–unbeknowst to her–a demimonde in training. Fortunately Andrew has been searching for her and finds her before she can be sold to someone else. All this happens and Alysia remains untouched.
Alysia’s continued rejection of Andrew makes very little sense to me. He’s a man of great fortune. He’s brilliant. He’s the son of a Marquess. The idea that in the late 1800s him marrying a Countess’s daughter even if the Countess had a poor reputation would somehow ruin his ability to make money trading stocks wasn’t well conveyed in the book.
None of the surrounding characters made much sense either. Andrew doesn’t squawk when his sister’s new husband wants to invite Alysia on the honeymoon. While he might warn Alysia away from the Duke of Belmont, he makes no moves to warn his sister. His mother continually pushes awful women at Andrew including ones that have about as poor of a reputation as Alysia, yet shuns Alysia. His father raises his mistress’s daughter in his household but won’t countenance a relationship between her and his son. Instead, he does everything he can to push Alysia into high class prostitution.
And it’s not that Alysia will be poor either. Thanks to the management of her money by Andrew, Alysia will be very wealthy when she comes into her inheritance. So none of the choices made by any major players in the book seemed authentic. The plot became even more convoluted as the story went on. The twists in the story seemed melodramatic rather than interesting as we discover Alysia’s parentage and Alysia and Andrew’s social standing almost flips. Perhaps with tighter editing or a more focused plot this could have been interesting.
Andrew was a sweet beta hero who was head over heels in love with Alysia. They were two nice characters who probably belonged together but the effort to keep them apart was too artificial.
It’s a fairly long book, made longer by the unnecessary addition of nonsensical plot point after nonsensical plot point. It took me six days to finish this book. It’s an inauspicious start to my renewed commitment to historicals. D