All Dressed In White by Charis Michaels
Set in the 1830’s, this isn’t a light-hearted romp like many romances set in that era. It begins with a young woman in desperate straits; Tessa St. Croix is in need of a rescuer.
Before I go any further, I’m going to put in a trigger warning; the ‘act of quiet violence’ described in the blurb is a rape. Like so many victims of sexual assault, Tessa blames herself; she flirted, she charmed, she ‘led him on’. And like so many, she suffers post-traumatic stress. The way both of these topics are addressed, and how Tessa slowly learns, with the support of her husband, to rise above and move past her trauma, is absolutely incredible. Charis Michaels doesn’t shy away from anything, dealing with the confronting realities faced by so many women of that era, in that their reputations were considered all-important and any blemish considered a disaster of the utmost magnitude, even when no fault of their own.
Joseph, the man who marries Tessa, doesn’t do well when she confesses on their wedding night that she’s expecting another man’s child. Ashamed, Tessa doesn’t explain the circumstances of conception, and Joseph leaves for a long sea voyage to the West Indies with anger and confusion bubbling over. Returning in less than ideal circumstances, he has to deal with having a wife he doesn’t know and a baby son not his own, and frankly I thought he did very well. His kindness and patience with Tessa as they worked through her issues together, his loving support of her goals and ambitions, were wonderful to read. A man like Joseph would be a treasure in any age, and I fell completely in love with him.
Tessa’s searing self-honesty brought a tear to the eye on occasion. Her feelings of guilt, her pain and doubt, the difficulties she faced as she tried to move forward with her life, were heart-wrenching and so terribly relatable. I highly recommend this book, which is part of a series called the Brides of Belgravia, and I’ll be making room for the rest of the series and more of Charis Michaels’ books on my TBR list in the future. Five stars, but with the warning that if you have triggers for rape or sexual assault, this might be one you need to avoid.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through Edelweiss.