Sequel to her Moonlight Masquerade, Ruth Axtell writes about a young woman come to London for her first season. After years of pining for her best friend's brother, even coming to an understanding with him, he has married another, and the London season seems the best way to show him that she does not need him. Being a good girl has utterly failed to deliver her heart's desires, and so she throws off the mantle of a vicar's daughter and adopts the airs of society's femmes fatales. While Lancelot Marfleet, the first eligible young man she meets, would be suitable for her, his profession in the church and interests so similar to her father's only set her more against him. In her rebelliousness and pursuit of the world, will she go so far as to lose everything?
As it is said, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - and Jessamine, spurned for a wealthy, French beauty, is simmering in it. Her frequently bad attitude and childish actions made it really hard to care for her - especially when she deliberately abandons the faith and principles in which she was brought up. It is one thing when a non-christian lives in the way of the world - that is to be expected. It is much harder to watch a girl who knows better pursue the world out of anger-born rebellion. As I have never been particularly inclined to rebelliousness myself, I just could not connect with her.
However, while Jessamine is frustrating, Lancelot makes the story worth it. Though imperfect, he has a passion for Christ and tries to keep Him foremost in his thoughts and actions. While he is not sure that he even really likes Jessamine, he is attracted to her, and he pays close enough attention to see glimpses of the girl she has buried under the coquette - a garden-loving vicar's daughter with whom he could easily fall in love. He cares enough about to her as a human being to tell her - no matter how little she wants to hear it - that (essentially) she is being a flirtatious idiot and apt to ruin her life. While that honesty gets him in trouble, it shows that he actually cares, unlike most of London society.
Had I realized A Heart's Rebellion was the second novel in a series following Moonlight Masquerade, I would have made an effort to read that one first, since I prefer to read books in order. However, in spite of its sequel status, I had no trouble following the plot, nor suffered any confusion from what must have been events from the earlier book. It summarizes some details from Masquerade to clarify a few things, but it works quite well as a stand alone novel.
I do not think I could read about Jessamine's folly again - it is too frustrating watching her destroy herself. However, I did enjoy the author's inclusion of historical details, and I would like to try some of her other novels. I learned a little more about London seasons - I had always assumed everyone was presented to the queen. Apparently not! I also liked the botany aspect of the story - given that it is a subject that interests me, I enjoyed learning how the field was growing so much during that era, while new lands were being explored and samples brought back and studied. 3.5 stars
Thank you Revell for providing a free copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
1. Moonlight Masquerade
2. A Heart's Rebellion