Wild Lavender - Lynne Connolly
This is apparently the 7th book in the Emperors of London series. I had absolutely no idea, but fortunately the book stands perfectly well on its own. It's apparent that Julius, the heroine's brother, has a romance and gets married during the 5-year hiatus period in the middle of the book when Helena and Tom are separated, but there's no requirement to have read previous books to get a sense of what's going on.
The cast of characters is sensibly kept to the immediate families of both protagonists, one notable villain and a couple of important historical figures... Bonnie Prince Charlie being one of the latter.
I love non-Regency historicals and this is another great example. Set in the years 1750 and 1755, it's beautifully detailed and includes verifiable historical facts such as Charles Stuart's clandestine visit to London in 1750 and Fleet marriages, which became illegal in 1754 and forced those who wanted a hasty wedding to head for Scotland instead. Hence the many mentions of Gretna Green in Regency romances - getting married in England required a minimum three-week wait for the banns to be called.
I never quite understood why Helena's mother had it in for her quite so badly, and why if she disliked Helena so much would she be determined to have her as a companion for life? Surely she'd be determined to marry her off and get rid of her? Money to hire a companion instead is after all no object to a duchess. It was a plot point that never quite made sense, to me.
Tom and Helena, however, were a perfectly charming couple, from the adorable falling in love at first sight to the agonizing separation they had to endure. The love scenes between them were delightfully done, and made me very glad I didn't live in the Georgian era... all those hoops and stays must have made a lady's life perfectly miserable!
An enjoyable Georgian romance by an author who really knows her stuff. Four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.