I bought this book a while back when it was on sale for about $2, but never got around to reading it. I finally decided it was time after giving up on “In the Waning Light,” which I was supposed to review for the Smart Bitches RITA Reader Challenge 2016. While I’m glad I read it, I can’t say that it is my favorite book. To be honest, it was very middle of the road.
Miss Clare Westmore is just like every other girl of her age–she goes to balls, flirts with future Dukes, and is terrified of making one misstep, which she does quite literally, spraining her ankle. Now, she’s stuck sitting on the sideline while her friends take her waltzes. Being a wallflower, however, gives her perspective on many things and she begins to wonder just what it is she wants out of life.
Doctor Daniel Merial is struggling to get by, living in a small rented room in a bad part of town and working at a teaching hospital. To make some extra cash he moonlights as the person physician for one of the former leading ladies of the ton. While keeping an eye on his patient, he meets Clare and his life is changed forever.
This is a different type of romance. I loved the fact that it took place not in the Regency, but smack dab in the middle of the Victorian Era. That’s a period of time that I don’t know all that much about–other than the fact that until last year Queen Victoria was the longest reigning British monarch. I liked that Ms. McQuiston included facts about the Chartist Movement, which was coming to an end around the same time this book takes place. It was an interesting backdrop to what was really a story about bridging the class divide, something that is almost as wide today as it was back in the mid-Nineteenth Century–although here in the US we don’t have an aristocracy built on centuries of Feudalism but rather a plutocracy built on 240 years of Capitalism. I liked the fact that despite being noble by birth, Clare and her sister Lucy both supported the Chartists’ attempt to gain a margin of political power, included complete male suffrage (being set in 1848, it would be strange to have anyone looking for female suffrage, although that was the very year of the Seneca Convention here in the States).
Another facet of Victorian stratification that I found interesting was the idea that even in church the classes did not mix. There was a scene towards the end of the novel in which Clare describes going to a funeral and seeing a section roped off for people who could not afford a box. I didn’t realize that such a thing existed outside of Opera Houses. I just figured that the churches were more or less segregated with ones for the Upper classes and others for the lower classes.
The main thing that bothered me about this book is that aside from Clare’s sister, Lucy, every other young, female character existed solely to make Clare look better or to make her stand out from the crowd. These were women without any depth–they were all the type of one dimensional villain that proliferate the fictional world. There was no real reason as to why these girls acted the way they did or why they absolutely hated Clare–just that Clare managed to catch the eye of a future duke. They were ridiculous and the embodiment of the type of mean girl that made junior high and high school a living hell for so many girls. Hell, Regina George wasn’t even as mean as Sophie and Rose. I did keep waiting for this to happen, though:
Okay, maybe not exactly that–this was Victorian London–but Daniel and Clare did take the Omnibus a couple times. One of those could have hit them, right?