In the second book of her Whispers on the Moors series, Sarah E. Ladd focuses on Patience Creighton, the spinster headmistress of a girls' school at Rosemere, a property leased from William Sterling. It has been difficult since her father died, while her mother sank into despair and her brother abandoned them without word for London, but Patience takes the burden of running the school entirely upon herself with success. His very life threatened for the gambling debts he owes, William is in desperate need for money. The thought of parting with any land - his own home, where his stables and fine horses are, or Rosemere, the gem of his property - is detestable, but the creditors are impatient. Then one night William receives a warning from them, leaving him beaten and unconscious on Rosemere's doorstep, under the ministrations of the lovely headmistress. Suddenly William keeps finding reasons to return to see Patience . . .
While the everyday workings of the school do not play heavily in the story, I liked what there was - it is fun to glimpse the historical aspects of education. Patience's care for her pupils radiates from her in their presence, and her competence as a headmistress shines. I ached for her in how her family fails to appreciate her hard work. However, the practicality, confidence, and competence she has gained from running the school make her a good match for the irresponsible William Sterling - their personalities balance really well. I was not too sure of him at first, but William impressed me with his growth and maturity as the story went on.
I did wonder how William was going to pull himself out of debt, as his prospects are not good for most of the novel; the solution was certainly not one I had envisioned at the beginning of the book, but it was satisfactory. While the mystery of who burned the stables was not what I would consider one of the most prominent issues of the story, and therefore I did not spend a lot of time mulling over who did it, I was surprised when I found out.
If one thing could have been added, I would have loved to have found out more about Rawdon Creighton. In truth, he was probably my least favorite character (well, there were people lower than him, but they don't qualify as "favorites," least or otherwise), but what we know of him is mostly from his sister's hurt and annoyed opinion of him. He clearly has excellent taste in women - I liked both Cassandra and Lydia a lot - but there were undercurrents; I feel like there could be more story hidden there than we get to see in this novel.
While I had enjoyed the first book in the series, this one has a spark to set it apart from other regency romances. An immensely satisfying read and an engrossing drama - 5 out of 5 stars!
Whispers on the Moors
1. The Heiress of Winterwood
2. The Headmistress of Rosemere
3. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall
For another excellent novel about Regency-era education, I also recommend The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen.