Perhaps the greatest mistake most people make in their lives is taking for granted that all of us will live to a ripe old age. In fact, most young people act as if they are immortal. But what happens when a person has to face their own mortality--being told they will die in a year, or contracting a deadly or terminal disease that cuts one's lifespan down to a mere six months? I have often wondered what I would do if given such a short time to complete my life.
Our heroine, Marguerite Laurent, is faced with this prospect. Encountering a seer she is told that she will be dead at the end of the next year. As a person who earned her living nursing the dying, she tended to dismiss this message as the joke of a con artist. But when Madame Foster's other predictions began to come true, Marguerite began to think far more seriously about how she would spend these last 365 days given her.
At the same time, she received a message from her father, a man who had paid little if any attention to her over the years, and who was a rough and tumble owner of a gaming hell in London. Now he wants to bring all three of his daughters together with some of London's money-hungry aristocrats so that they can, in his words, make good marriages. In truth, he wants to advance his own social standing. In doing so, he is cutting his partner out of a portion of the business assets that they have both worked so hard to accrue. Ash Courtland, her father's partner, had literally pulled himself up by his bootstraps, and now realizes that the ambitions of Marguerite's father will more than likely rob him of a good portion of his future. So he promptly proceeds to kidnap one of Jack's daughter's--doesn't make any difference which one--so he can marry her and preserve his financial future. Well guess which sister he got? We all know, don't we, and thus they began their trek toward Gretna Green.
This is a very interesting love story--seduction, Marguerite's efforts to escape from Ash, growing attraction, horrible Northern England weather, coach accidents, jumping out of inn windows and on and on. But the course of true love certainly does not run smooth for these two and that's what makes this story not just another historical romance. Both of these characters are one-of-a-kind sorts of people, independent thinkers, able and willing to go after what they really want, needing the care and tender loving of another but not sure they are worthy, etc. They are real, flawed, and needy, smart, sassy, and compelling. Their personalities jump right off the pages and their encounters are sparkling and witty. There are some underlying issues at play here--both Marguerite and Ash have had to deal with the disregard of a society that put little worth on them. Daughter of an unwed mother who didn't seem to mind her child's illegitimacy, ignored by a dismissive father. Ash was a child of the streets who watched poverty and drink tear his parents' relationship apart and bore the wound of watching his sister die of neglect and malnutrition. So both these people have to learn trust, learn their own intrinsic worth, and learn that a genuine and self-sacrificing love can be redemptive and healing. Best of all, both these people know how to fight for what they want. And when that "something" is the person you love, that's a very good skill.
So I recommend this as a delightful historical romance that has just enough unique qualities that it stands out above many others in this genre. It will be a fun read for historical fiction fans and a worthy expenditure of the reader's time. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.
This novel is being released in December, 2010 by Avon Books, a division of Harper Collins.