From the desk of Katie Patchell:
Henry Tilney (of Northanger Abbey fame) is an underrated hero of a vastly underrated novel. It’s almost impossible for me to name a favorite Jane Austen work, as (like all the best stories) each speaks into one’s life in different ways and seasons. Yet if I applied myself to the question—and ducked away from Mr. Knightley’s accusing gaze—I would have to say that yes, Northanger Abbey is my favorite and Henry Tilney the best of all heroic Henrys. In Wyndcross, the first in Martha Keyes’ “Families of Dorset” series, a hero quite like Mr. Tilney is accompanied by Kate, a heroine as willing to brave danger as Austen’s own Catherine Morland.
A Heroine Who Chooses to Live Bravely
Despite her step-father’s large fortune, Kate Matcham knows that his hatred for her is too strong for generosity. Unless, of course, she grovels. Which is something Kate would never do. To live bravely was a trait that her beloved father lived out, even in the face of the unknown smuggler leader who killed him. Yet without financial backing, Kate is left with one of the few remaining options given to Regency women: marriage. After receiving an insulting offer to become the mistress to one man or to become the wife of convenience to a kind but distant friend, Kate jumps at her friend Clara’s invitation to visit Wyndcross, her family home.
“…her thoughts turned to memories of the Dorset countryside. Rolling green hills checkered with dark hedges, ending abruptly at precipitous white cliffs which dropped into a deep blue ocean.” (34)
Hidden Feelings Must Remain Buried
At peace in the beautiful Dorset countryside, Kate expects to gain some clarity and acceptance of her future. Instead, she gains the company of humorous and disarming Lord Ashworth—the man who just so happens to be the same kind stranger who helped Kate avoid the so-called gentleman who so recently propositioned her. On Kate’s part, she knows that any hidden feeling she has for Lord Ashworth must remain buried; not only is he titled, but he is Clara’s assumed future husband. When news of local smuggling reaches Kate at Wyndcross, she must come to terms with who Lord Ashworth really is and what her feelings are for him. If she doesn’t, she may have to discover the identity of her father’s murderer alone.
“She blinked away the stinging in her eyes, determined that she would show no weakness to the man. She could not allow her father’s brave memory to be overwritten in the script of her own fear and weakness.” (242)
It bears repeating. I love the charming and witty Henry Tilney. Without being an exact twin, Lord Ashworth is close enough to have made me immediately crave another re-read of Wyndcross and of Northanger Abbey. Kate also shows characteristics of two of Austen’s heroines: Elizabeth Bennet’s fantastic wit along with Catherine Morland’s straightforward nature.
“The sense of embarrassment which had begun to dissipate returned in full force, and she felt pride and resentment flare up again. “And do you make a habit of sneaking up and eavesdropping, sir?” she asked, hoping to put him in his place.
“Naturally,” he said with no trace of a smile. She laughed again, caught off guard by his nonsensical response.” (56)
A Comedy of Manners, or Historical Suspense?
The only cloud to my overall sunny experience with Wyndcross was that this book seems split into two different genres. The first half is a comedy of manners, set in drawing rooms and on the dance floor. Clara’s incessant flirtations with the obviously uninterested Lord Ashworth kept me from remembering that this was more than a story about elite society and star-crossed love. Then it happened somewhere in the 60% mark: the reality of dangerous smugglers. This changed the mood to something tense and action-filled, and I could hardly turn pages fast enough.
With the sense of a true storyteller, Martha Keyes has created an intriguing plot with a delightful lead couple that delicately blends humor, romance, and suspense. Wyndcross is sure to please fans of Julie Klassen and Abigail Wilson and will strike an extra chord in the hearts of Northanger Abbey lovers.
5 out of 5 Stars
ADDITIONAL BOOKS IN THE SERIES
- March 28—Isabel: A Regency Romance (Families of Dorset Book 2)
- May 04—Cecilia: A Regency Romance (Families of Dorset Book 3)
- July 06—Hazelhurst: A Regency Romance (Families of Dorset Book 4)
- Wyndcross: A Regency Romance (Families of Dorset Book 1), by Martha Keyes
- Paradigm Press (July 1, 2019)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobooks (252) pages
- ISBN: 978-1073336593
- Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
We purchased our review copy for our own enjoyment. Austenprose Is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Paradigm Press © 2019; text Katie Patchell © 2022, austenprose.com
Hello Dear Readers,
Have you read any of the novels in the Families of Dorset series, or by Martha Keyes?
If you enjoy clean historical romance with witty dialogue, engaging plots, and endearing characters, Austenprose highly recommends them.
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Laurel Ann Nattress, editor