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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Bilson

The Truth About Miss Ashbourne by Joanna Barker

This is a sweet Regency romance written, unusually, in first person. The protagonist is one Juliana Ashbourne, at the beginning of the novel a governess in a London household to a young boy and girl. She’s on shaky ground with her employers though, since the husband has nefarious intentions towards her and the wife dislikes Juliana’s influence over her daughter in particular. Hence, the news that the maternal grandfather she’s never met has died and left her a substantial fortune in somewhat fortuitous, only marred slightly by a proviso which states she must spend a month at Havenford, the family estate, before claiming her inheritance.

Now held by a distant cousin, Havenford is grander than anything Juliana has ever imagined, and she finds family she never knew she had there, from a loving grandmother to a female cousin her own age who becomes a fast friend. It’s the estate’s new master, William Rowley, who Juliana can’t help but be attracted to, though, and who could blame her? William is delightful, even if he does have a rather wicked sense of humour and delights in teasing. He’s never cruel, though, expending a great deal of effort to make Juliana feel welcome at his home and with her family.

This is a really lovely novel; though to be honest the plot is entirely predictable, the author puts a fresh and charming take on it as we experience Juliana’s slow thawing towards the family who disowned her mother. Her relationship with her grandmother was particularly delightful as Juliana’s attitude changed from a thin tolerance for an old lady who talked too much to, by the end of the book, a deep and loving regard, such that she was willing to give up everything she held dear to protect Lady Rowley and her cousin Eliza from social consequences.

Despite the predictability of the plot, I honestly can’t point to a single thing about this book I disliked. It’s a romance, after all; we know there’s going to be a happily ever after, or at least there had better be! A charming debut from an author I’m looking forward to reading more of in the future. Five stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

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