I’m going to run out of superlatives to describe how good this book is. It is, quite simply, the best historical romance I’ve read in ages - and I’ve read quite a few good ones, as you’ll see from my review history.
Lady Julia Bishop is the eldest daughter of a wealthy earl, and as such, she should have too many eligible suitors to count. However, Julia was born with an exposed spinal condition (revealed in the author’s notes to be spina bifida occluda) and is known to society as a ‘crippled freak’. Instead of hiding herself away from the world, though, Julia is determined to live whatever life she might have to the absolute fullest, schedules and medical treatments notwithstanding. Meeting Jasper, Duke of Albermarle, when he accidentally causes her to fall from her horse, she makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to conceal her identity and pretend her severe limp is caused by a twisted ankle rather than her condition, wanting just for once to be treated as a ‘normal’.
Jasper is already head over heels in love with her by the time he figures out she hasn’t told him everything, and to his credit, the only way he allows the knowledge to colour his actions is in the greater consideration he affords her physical limitations when planning activities for them to do together. He was wonderful, but it was Julia who is the star of this story, Julia the fearless, who refuses to accept other people’s restrictions on her free choices, who refuses to be defined by her illness. Her sense of humour and indomitable will were inspirational, and her interactions with her sister Amelia had me laughing my head off more than once. I have sisters myself, and the way they teased each other was so true to life, I absolutely loved it.
If you’re looking for greater disabled representation in romance, seriously, you cannot do better than this fabulous love story set in the early days of Queen Victoria’s reign. I wish I could give it about fifteen stars, but sadly, five will have to do.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.