A friend recommended this novel, and it looked good. I’m happy to report I was not disappointed.
The story begins in a comedic moment, and not the only one, where the two main characters are very much at odds. There is lovely repartee between Billie and George from the start, and it serves to ground the reader in a long-standing relationship between their two families.
Billie is a wonderful character both because of and despite her flaws. She knows she’s not perfect, and she is quick to lay the blame for events she’s been instrumental in on others’ shoulders. At the same time, she’s not the wild brat everyone seems to have decided is her role to play. Instead, she’s taken on traditionally male tasks to keep her beloved Aubrey Hall thriving while her younger brother grows up enough to take on the mantle of heir.
Do not be mistaken. This is a humorous romance, but at the same time, it takes on the gender politics of the era (late 1700s), and not just in the case of Billie. The responsibilities and opportunities offered young men of quality and how birth order determines their futures also plays a part.
The story is strongly seeped in the events of the period, being set during the American war of independence. It’s a little odd (as an American) seeing the war from the opposite side, but the focus is on how war affects the families left behind more than a debate of who was in the right or wrong.
I liked the way the small picture (crops and daily life) is mixed in with the bigger issues of sons going off to war when there is little to no news reaching home (and a delay of weeks if not months for the news that does). The plot was a very personal one, and at times, the greater picture seemed shoehorned in, but the effect was still that of a strong, getting-to-know-yourself story for both main characters.
Billie and George came to understand their own motivations at the same time as recognizing how their feelings for each other had transformed from annoyance to love. And the intervention of the mothers is precious (I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers).
There are explicit moments toward the end, so I wouldn’t classify this as a clean romance, but it had that feel in how it focuses on the characters growing into their new feelings even when their worlds are being torn apart. I enjoyed the time spent with these characters and feel it was well worth the read.