From the desk of Katie Patchell:
When I was younger, I hated Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte’s tale of passion and self-discovery seemed a wasteland to my teenage self—bleak in Yorkshire moor and stark in romantic love. I watched every adaptation and read the novel countless times, but the results were the same. Until one day, in the midst of 2021, I was stunned to encounter colorful beauty where once I saw only monochrome. Evil cousins and madness in attics no longer reigned. What captivated me as never before was the magnetism of Rochester and Jane’s equal meeting of heart and mind. Enter With Love, Louisa, Ashtyn Newbold’s latest Regency novel. A tale set in the open skied Yorkshire moors that Charlotte Bronte loved. This novel champions another couple who stand side by side as equals.
When her sister marries and moves away, leaving her as the sole guest of a bachelor friend, Louisa Rosemeyer knows the time has come to leave Larkhall. Her two options are to marry without love or to request the status of ‘companion’ to her unknown elderly relative. Louisa votes for love and family. On her aunt’s brief, poorly written acceptance, Louisa sets out into the unknown, believing in a warm welcome. Instead, what she encounters after crossing the threshold is a frustrating, horribly handsome man named Jack who Louisa can only assume is a dangerous intruder.
While trying to drown out memories of a terrible accident from his past, Jack Warwick drunkenly pens a response to the unknown Louisa Rosemeyer, mischievously accepting her stay on behalf of her nasty aunt. Unbeknownst to Louisa, the estate is let out to him. Louisa’s arrival sets in motion a series of unforeseen events. Who she thinks is a flirtatious villain in her aunt’s home is actually the legal resident…but she learns the truth too late. Her haphazard visit to his bedroom at night (something Jack finds endlessly entertaining) is witnessed and misinterpreted, and immediately seals their fate.
Jack staggered to his feet.
“Stay back!” Miss Rosemeyer’s panicked voice echoed.
“I’m not a rabid beast. I will not attack you. Might I remind you that you were the one pointing the poker at my chest when you pounced out of my wardrobe.”
“I did not pounce out of the wardrobe. I fell backward when you startled me.”
“I assure you, it was not intentional,” Jack glanced heavenward with a sigh. Fortunately, she couldn’t see his exasperation. When would she realize that it was he who had been more startled? All he had expected to see inside was a row of unmoving, clean clothing, not a madwoman with a weapon. No, Miss Rosemeyer was not a madwoman, she was simply very lost and confused.” (Location 960)
Banished by her aunt with nowhere to go, Louisa does the unthinkable: she accepts Jack’s surprisingly honorable offer to redeem her from scandal. After their marriage, Louisa and Jack resign themselves to a partnership without trust or love. Yet with every passing day, their connection becomes undeniable. Once the truth of Jack’s past comes to light, will their bond shatter, as he fears? Or will it prove unbreakable, as she hopes?
As my introduction to the Larkhall Letters’ series, With Love, Louisa has made me not only contemplate buying the previous entries, but also to purchase a Kindle e-reader to better appreciate gorgeous books like this one! If I had to sum up this novel in one phrase alone (a stipulation Jack would appreciate), I would say: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Louisa and Jack exemplify what it means to live as a “marriage of true minds.” In laughter, love, squabbles; in the fighting of old ghosts and the repairing of familial breaches. In all of it, Jack and Louisa remain loyal to each other, true to this book’s cover design. Of course, it’s easy to name other words for this tale. Joyful, bittersweet, snoring, crooked, (and its sibling word: “nose”), hopeful, kiss, accident, redemption, and tease—all are some of my favorite themes about With Love, Louisa.
When reading a book set in the middle of a series, I’m always torn between my love of meeting previous characters again and my dislike of family sagas. Often, prior knowledge of past heroes/heroines is a must when reading each successive book. This adds (in my opinion) times of unnecessary confusion for readers, as we struggle to understand a series’ ever-expanding cast of characters. The only downside to my experience of With Love, Louisa was the realization that many characters (especially early on) are supposed to already be familiar to readers. However, due to the story’s charm, seen from the first paragraph, this remained a quibble, not a deterrent.
My word of advice? Read this enchanting novel. With Love, Louisa is a beautifully written story of imperfection, forgiveness, and passion. Whether this is your introduction to the inhabitants of Larkhall or you’ve been a visitor many times before, be prepared for an intense craving to get your hands on the rest of the series.
5 out of 5 Stars
- With Love, Louisa: A Regency Romance (Larkhall Letters Book 3), by Ashtyn Newbold
- Independently published (July 14, 2021)
- Trade paperback & eBook (316) pages
- ISBN: 979-8536288474
We purchased a review copy for our own enjoyment. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase.
Cover image courtesy of Ashtyn Newbold © 2021; text Katie Patchell © 2021, Austenprose.com