Publication Date: November 2, 2021
About the Author:
Josi S. Kilpack hated to read until her mother handed her a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond when she was 13. From that day forward, she read everything she could get her hands on and credits her writing “education” to the many novels she has “studied” since then. She began writing her first novel in 1998 and has written thirty-three novels, one cookbook, and several short stories since then. She is a four-time Whitney Award winner, including two Novel of the Year awards for Lord Fenton’s Folly and As Wide as the Sky and a Best of State winner in Fiction. She writes her national women’s fiction under the pen name of Jessica Pack (say Josi Kilpack really fast and you’ll see why she chose it). Josi currently lives in Northern Utah and is the mother of 4 wonderful kids.
For more information about Josi or her books, please visit her blog, What is a Sundial In the Shade?
Hazel Stillman was left with no illusions that she would ever marry. Born with a clubbed foot, she was hidden away from the world by her parents and abandoned to a girls’ school. She pours her energies into higher math and becomes a teacher, learning to find joy in scholarship instead of relationships. When her uncle Elliott presents her with an inheritance, she sees it as an opportunity to save her school from being sold. But the money comes with strings attached…the strings of marriage.
Duncan Penhale is a strange fellow. He likes everything to be orderly and exact, and he is candid in his dislike of things that are not. When he angers his employer with his intransigence on the points of punctuality and correct bookkeeping, he is in danger of losing his place. Strangely enough, his guardian’s brother has offered him a significant sum of money if he succeeds in marrying a gentlewoman. Duncan’s one hope of maintaining his life exactly as it is, is to shake up his life altogether.
Determined to gain their inheritances, Hazel and Duncan make a calculated plan to marry…and then never have anything to do with each other again. However, Uncle Elliott, appalled by their callous decisions, insists that they must live at the same residence for one year before they separate. Grudgingly, the two agree. As Hazel comes to know Duncan, with all his quirks, she begins to care for him deeply–but is it even possible for a man like him to fall in love? Hazel will settle for nothing less if she is to fully commit.
Duncan settles into a sense of normalcy with Hazel, the only person whose physical touch does not frighten and nauseate him. He depends on her to tell him what society thinks of his behaviors, and she depends on him to help her navigate the world with her lame leg. But for some reason, Hazel is still determined to abandon Duncan at the year’s end, and he has no idea what words she needs to hear in order to bridge the gap between them.
This unusual Regency deals with the topics of disability and autism. Hazel’s clubbed foot makes her an object of derision or pity in some people’s eyes, and at first she is horrified by Duncan’s casual allusions to her deformity. His comfortability with speaking about her disability, however, is a boon to Hazel, as he applies his significant mental energies to finding her the proper-fitting shoes to help her walk without pain. Duncan himself, with his overly literal ways, is an object of embarrassment to Hazel at first, but in time, her affection for him overshadows her annoyance at his lack of sensibility. The story also features a reconciliation between Hazel and her brother Harry, who finds his own romance in Rakes and Roses.
All in all, this was a delightful novel that explores a romance far from the cookie-cutter mold. Recommended.