With Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer listed as two of Carolyn Miller’s favourite authors, I thought I would be in for a treat with her first published Regency novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison – and I was right.
The influence of these two remarkable women is clear in both plot and prose but Carolyn’s own talents also shine brightly in this lively and charming tale.
It feels like a very accomplished book, especially in a genre where detail is so important – not just in accurately depicting things such as the clothes they wore and the etiquette of the time but also the nuances of language, which she uses so well.
Here’s the blurb:
Hampton Hall’s new owner has the villagers of St. Hampton Heath all aflutter—all except Lavinia Ellison.
The reverend’s daughter cares for those who are poor and sick, and the seventh Earl of Hawkesbury definitely does not meet that criteria.
His refusal to take his responsibilities seriously, or even darken the door of the church, leave her convinced he is as arrogant and reckless as his brother—his brother who stole the most important person in Lavinia’s world.
Nicholas Stamford is shadowed by guilt: his own, his brother’s, the legacy of war. A perfunctory visit to this dreary part of Gloucestershire wasn’t supposed to engage his heart, or his mind.
Challenged by Miss Ellison’s fascinating blend of Bluestocking opinions, hoydenish behavior, and angelic singing voice, he finds the impossible becoming possible—he begins to care.
But Lavinia’s aloof manner, society’s opposition and his ancestral obligations prove most frustrating, until scandal forces them to get along.
Can Lavinia and Nicholas look beyond painful pasts and present prejudice to see their future? And what happens when Lavinia learns a family secret that alters everything she’s ever known?
Livvie is a clever, talented and spirited heroine, pushing at the constraints placed upon her by society of the time, just as Emma, Lizzy and Venetia before her.
While Nicholas has all the elements of my favourite period heroes – the pride of Mr Darcy, the charm, wit and frustrations of Jasper Damerel and the dashing looks of both – and managed to work his way into my heart.
The tale does feel very familiar in parts but I’m pretty sure it is to be expected in this genre (and it is actually rather nice, especially when there can be no more Austen or Heyer books but hopefully many more from Carolyn Miller).
On her website she says she enjoys “creating worlds where flawed people can grow in faith, hope, and love”. Which is exactly what happens to both characters. God and the Bible play an important role but explanations are weaved in so that even a person with no faith, like me, can appreciate them.
This is book one in the series and I’m already eagerly awaiting book two.
My rating: Four stars.
Thank you to Kregel Publications (via Netgalley) for sending me an ARC in return for an honest review.