Following the marriage of Lady Helena, Jenny Holloway is no longer needed as a lady’s companion. Jenny receives a “modest independence” of five thousand pounds and determines to never give up that independence by marrying. She makes plans to travel to India to locate a longlost cousin, but when she alerts her solicitor, Mr. Finchley, of her need for funds, he balks at the idea of a single woman traveling alone. Before she knows it, she is on a whirlwind trip to Egypt, Calcutta, and Delhi, with Mr. Finchley at her side.
Tom Finchley is a solicitor with secrets, secrets so powerful that he can bend or break members of the aristocracy with a mere word. Taken from the orphanage and trained by an unscrupulous solicitor, Tom practices cutthroat tactics to get his clients what they want–but it turns out that the one thing Tom wants most is his client Jenny Holloway. Taking a leave of absence from London, Tom escorts Jenny across the Mediterranean and the overland passage to India, helping her search for a man whom he fears to be his rival and loving her despite the knowledge that she is dead set against marrying.
This book shows how hopelessly romantic a competent man can be, a man who can order train tickets, reserve hotel rooms, push through paperwork, bribe the locals, commandeer food, calculate arrival times, and see to the comfort of the lady in his care. To protect Jenny’s reputation, Tom obtains two servants to travel with them and avers that Jenny is his half-sister. The charade wears thin, however, when the growing attraction between them causes gossip among the other travelers in their party.
The Victorian atmosphere and the sights and sounds of Egypt and India were described beautifully. One could feel the stomach-churning pitch of Jenny’s first boatride as well as the stifling heat of the climate around the equator. The book did drag on a little too long–some of the twists and turns of both the characters’ emotions and the lengthy travel could have been shortened for a tighter plot.
In the end, both Tom and Jenny must decide if their “fondness” for each other is enough to surmount the different plans that each has in life. Tom is a London man, through and through, with a longing for a home, a wife, and children; Jenny wants nothing to do with the prosaic aspects of domesticity, yearning instead for a life of adventure. I enjoyed the way this quandary was resolved, and most of all, I enjoyed Tom Finchley, a romantic hero who shines not because of athleticism or good looks, but because of unflagging industry, unflappable demeanor, and unabashed confidence in his own ability to manage things.
This book is the second in the Parish Orphans of Devon series. It could be read as a standalone, but why would you want to miss the story of Justin and Helena in The Matrimonial Advertisement?
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.