REVIEW: The Baron and the Lady Chemist by Alissa Baxter
Their chemistry creates a chain reaction . . . but will love be the final result?
Dorothea Grantham has always been fascinated by chemistry and spends most days conducting experiments in her laboratory at Grantham Place, staining silk with gold, silver, and other metals using chemical processes.
Thea embroiders the beautiful gold and silver silk shawls she creates and enjoys wearing them, but her grandmother, Lady Longmore, advises her not to reveal to anyone outside the family circle that she has created the fashion items herself, concerned her granddaughter might be seen as an oddity.
When Thea enters Society, her shawls attract a great deal of attention and become the talk of the town. James, Lord Castleroy, takes a particular interest in her work, having inherited a share in his grandfather’s silk mill in Macclesfield.
Eager to invest in the ailing silk industry, the baron studies Miss Grantham’s silks with an admiring—and increasingly suspicious—eye, believing the fabrics to be smuggled imported silk. As he spends more time with the enterprising young lady, however, his interest in her quickly extends beyond his business affairs to engulf his guarded heart.
But Lord Castleroy isn’t the only person in London interested in Thea’s exquisite creations. And when a silken web of intrigue entangles her in real danger, Thea must trust the devotion of a man she never expected—or intended—to fall in love with.
Dear Ms. Baxter
When reading the blurb, what caught my eye and my interest is the fact that heroine Thea isn’t just a dilettante about chemistry – no, she is making practical use of her interest and talent in the field. True, some of her family members aren’t thrilled with her interest and try to keep what she does hushed up because they don’t want the ton to think Thea is weird but her love of the science isn’t merely a soon-dropped hook to get readers to try the book.
Thea and James’s first meeting isn’t the best but thankfully Thea isn’t made out to be an awkward, stumbling idiot. The fire is doused and all’s well. No, James’s interest in Thea initially appears to be due to what Thea’s wearing rather than the way they met. Thea dyes and then beautifully embroiders silk and she does it with her chemical knowledge. James has a reason to be concerned about what he sees as his mother’s father owns a silk mill in England and times are hard. English silk makers are still not in the same league with those on the European continent or India, contraband importation is rampant, the Crown is losing revenue, and English silkweavers are on the ropes.
When he learns what is behind the beautiful shawls Thea wears, James has another proposition. He wants to patent her chemical process and use it to create silk at his grandfather’s mill thus helping the destitute workers. Thea comes back at James and says the process isn’t hers but that of a female chemist and if that woman is alive, James needs to get her permission. But the shawls and other items Thea has created have attracted the attention of others and some of them will go to any lengths to control or end what she’s doing.
Thea is a bluestocking but the societal interest in the science lectures in London make this acceptable and even fashionable which is a welcome change in my reading. Several men, our hero included, think nothing of taking their sisters, sweethearts, and family to these events. Thea’s interest in chemistry might not be seen as too odd but what she does with it? Yeah, that could smack of (gasp) trade. James is a Baron but his mother was married for her trade dowry and this caused James some issues at Eton. Luckily James and the hero from the previous book in the series (which it isn’t necessary to read before this one) became fast friends.
This is mainly a character centered book and I love the fast friendship that Thea and James’s sister Anne develop. James also carefully helps Thea with some issues of PTSD (not referred to that way, of course) which are the result of a horrible event
It’s refreshing that Thea is the one initially unconvinced of seeking a Grand Passion in marriage. Her parents were deeply in love and Thea saw how the death of her mother shattered her father. Thea wants nothing like that. Even after feelings have started, both James and Thea have moments of introspection and the realization that the needs and wants of the other person must be considered. Just feeling that they’re in love isn’t enough. A final act doubt on the part of one person was a drag but the way the other person convinces the doubter of their sincerity is sweet.
The tidbits and information about the silk industry are interesting and don’t come across as too much like a history lesson. They’re also important to the story rather than merely being stuffed into the book to show off research. What disappointed me is a penultimate act that too closely mirrors the first book which can only take place because Thea loses any hint of her intelligence. And also how the heroine’s grandmother reacts. No, This Person in book one didn’t abduct your eldest granddaughter because he loves her so why should you briefly think this time would feature a besotted swain?? Sigh …
I liked many aspects of this book but caution readers that it is definitely slow burn and no sex. But it does have a STEM heroine whose passion is actually pertinent to the plot and a lovely, gentle hero willing to gently woo her. I’m just going to forget the whole bit at the end that annoys me and give this one a B