In The Heiress of Winterwood, the first installment of her new series, Whispers on the Moors, Sarah Ladd introduces an heiress who has fallen in love with her deceased friend's baby. Since her fiancé refuses to keep the child after they are wed, Amelia poses a proposition to the baby's father when he returns from overseas: marry her, and her substantial fortune will go entirely to the baby Lucy. Graham, a sea captain, needs to find a secure home for Lucy, and Amelia is the ideal caretaker, but he is still grieving his wife and has no intention of marrying again. Add the complications that Amelia's fortune is contingent upon getting married in the next few months before she turns 24, her fiancé starts showing a cruel side, and the baby and her nurse are kidnapped . . .
Considering how few days pass over the course of this book - maybe a month? - I was quite impressed by the author's ability to be so thorough while still keeping the plot moving. We get a clear picture of the depth of Amelia's family's displeasure over her choices, from early-on misgivings to the full-blown anger of when things come to a head. At the same time, Ladd does not neglect the politics - a woman who suddenly throws over one fiancé for another would have been the object of much gossip and censure, so working with the pastor to turn opinion in favor of the match was a strategic and impressive ploy.
I do get frustrated when characters go and do precisely what they were warned not to; since it's in a book, it is guaranteed to end poorly. There is no hope of a consequence-free act of defiance. I realize people do this all the time - I probably do as well - but sometimes it's so obviously a terrible decision that anyone with a lick of sense would never even consider it. Sadly, there is an instance of this in the novel.
I liked how Amelia and Graham's struggles with God were pretty universal - who doesn't struggle with doubts when bad things keep happening and people one loves die? And isn't it so easy to try to rely on one's own strength to solve problems? I've found I'm constantly having to reboot my mindset, since it wants to follow rules of this world, but God is outside all the rules and can change them when He wants. I don't have to rely on my own pathetic power, because God is there to be it for me. Bad stuff still happens - God doesn't exist just to make me happy, that's for sure - but when I let Him, He carries me through.
There was little surprise to the story, and it really went nowhere other than the expected route, from the villain, to the love story, to the supporting characters. It was, however, a pleasant read, and I do look forward to the next installment of the series. 4 out of 5 stars
Whispers on the Moors
1. The Heiress of Winterwood
2. The Headmistress of Rosemere
3. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall