The Sheffield Brothers company deals in rare antiquities, sourcing and valuing them for wealthy collectors in England. But with one of the Sheffield brothers dead and the other lapsing into his dotage, it is up to Eleanor Sheffield to carry on the family legacy. When Baron Lydney’s will gives Eleanor the important task of deciding who will inherit his collection, she tries to carry out a calm professional assessment, ignoring the fact that she once had a romantic interest in the baron’s son, Harry Lydney, and that he seems to be renewing his attentions once again. It turns out, however, that Eleanor’s private and professional life cannot help but overlap as she sounds out whether Harry Lydney can be trusted to maintain his father’s treasures and to treasure her own heart.
This book was a fascinating look at curiosities–falsified or true, paid for or stolen–and the origins of the collection now housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum. One of Eleanor’s chief duties is to discern false from true, and to speak the truth about supposed antiquities no matter whose vanity it might prick. Along the way, she must discern false from true characters–but the mark of the maker is not so clear on men as it is on Italian pottery.
The theme of trust is also woven throughout the novel. Eleanor is looking, not only for a love-match, but also a trust-match, and Harry seems eminently untrustworthy, given his past actions. Would it be better for her to marry Clarkson, the assistant who can be counted on to do right by the family business? Does it matter that Harry has repeatedly broken his promise to appear at a certain day or time? The mistrust that Eleanor has of Harry is transferred to the reader, and one feels the same brooding suspicions that Eleanor herself has of his character, along with the mustard seed of faith and hope that he will prove to be noble in the end.
Along with Eleanor’s own feelings toward Harry, she has her own repuation to be concerned with. In an era where only men could manage money, will aristocratic collectors trust a woman enough to let her help curate their collections? Or will misunderstandings and the schemes of those around her destroy trust in her own character and competence?
Lady of a Thousand Treasures is an atmospheric and well-paced story that provides both romantic tension and situational suspense. The Christian themes are woven in deftly in a manner appropriate to the time period. The importance of truth, the necessity of trust, and the strictures on a woman’s role in the Victorian era all combine to create a compelling novel with a heroine strong enough and faithful enough to endure and overcome.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.