Sarah E. Ladd's third regency follows Cecily Faire, a woman who made a foolish choice in her youth and was abandoned by her father at a girls' school, losing all contact with her family. When offered a position as a paid companion for an elderly woman, Cecily accepts, knowing it could bring her closer to the last-known whereabouts of her twin sister. To her shock, there is someone at Willowgrove Hall who knows of her youthful indiscretion, someone who could, with a wrong word, see her sacked in disgrace. She finds a friend in Nathaniel Hall, steward of the estate, and his sisters, but even Nathaniel has a secret he holds close to his chest. When the secrets come to light, will they run from the past or move forward to a future?
It was fun to learn a touch more about paid companions; Cecily is unusual in that she is not impoverished gentility,
but how she comes to be one seems plausible to me. I think the reality
of a companion could be lonely - not a servant, she could not associate
with the servants, but at the same time, she is paid and therefore an
employee, not family.
I like that Cecily has matured since her foolish teenage years. Sometimes - like with Nathaniel - she is overcautious, but I can respect that. She does not want to be taken in by a handsome face again, to give more than she should. Nathaniel is an honorable man, but he holds a lot of anger. In trying to be responsible and protective, Nathaniel can be over-serious, but I like his relationship with his family - though they are occasionally irked with each other, they clearly love each other dearly.
Everyone has secrets that hold them back. The fear of being vulnerable is very real, and Cecily and Nathaniel have it in spades. There is also a strong theme of forgiveness and letting go of anger. But most touching, in my opinion, is Cecily's loneliness and desire for her family - to be loved and have that camaraderie that no else can provide. As much as I wanted to murder them in my youth, I cannot imagine losing contact with my siblings like Cecily loses her twin sister.
Headmistress of Rosemere is still my favorite of the series, and I enjoyed the cameo of Rosemere in this novel. A sweet romance, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is a quiet, gentle read that tugs the heartstrings rather than sets the heart racing from danger.
Whispers on the Moors
1. The Heiress of Winterwood
2. The Headmistress of Rosemere
3. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall