Good day, Congress,
I hope this finds you well. As for me, I am feeling entirely romantic writing this review for Decca Price’s book Memory’s Bride. This novel I keenly recommend for you to read if you are looking for a Victorian story of romance, mystery and growth.
- Genre: Historical Romance
- Published: July 6, 2021
- Rating: 5/5 (RECOMMENDED)
A spinster at 26, Claire Burton casts off her claustrophobic existence in her parents’ conventional home and embraces a new life in the remote Welsh foothills, in the home of the man she once hoped to marry. There, she devotes herself to preserving the memory of her lover, a popular Victorian novelist, whose death made her a wealthy woman. But her inheritance chains her to the past and isolates her, since “society” assumes she had surrendered her virtue to the man. Why else would he leave her everything? Even her family casts her off.
Despite the stain on her reputation, two men soon pay court. Rhys Fitzgordon and Edward Latimer were boyhood friends of Claire’s lost love; the three men were once inseparable. Now, they will draw her into a web of dark secrets that could cost Claire her life.
Claire is powerfully drawn to Fitzgordon, a man who seems to benefit too frequently from accidents. Several years before, his older brother died, giving him the title of Viscount Montfort and the impoverished Montfort estates. Then his wife fell to her death, thus providing him with the money he lacked. Now, he is determined to recover the land his brother sold to settle debts – the land bequeathed to Claire.
Handsome and confident, Edward Latimer holds the living of the Montfort estates. He leads a comfortable gentleman’s life and wields considerable influence as rector. But he is haunted by his sister, Lucy, who disappeared two years earlier. Claire feels safe with him but gradually realizes he believes the secret to Lucy’s whereabouts is hidden in Claire’s house, perhaps in diaries and letters or an unpublished manuscript he is determined to find. She understands too late that he already knows what happened to Lucy and will do anything to bury the past.
As Claire unravels the mystery of her inheritance and open her heart to love again, she makes painful discoveries about herself, her lovers and the complexities of human passion before she learns the meaning of true love.
Set in 1870s England, our central character in this historical novel is a woman named Claire Burton. At the age of 26, she is aware that she is rapidly on her way to being on the shelf. In such a time with absurd social standards for women, Claire at her age and reputation—that is, she is not entirely a lady anymore, doubts especially underscored when a man (Josiah Carter) she is not wedded to has left her all his possessions in his death—is unlikely to meet with a wedding proposal.
In this novel I got a glimpse of how extreme societal expectations from women were in finding relationships back then. A woman’s chance to marry is diminished if certain qualities such as innocence is amiss even just outwardly. A woman was expected to act innocent, unopinionated, ignorant, and weak so she must only depend on her husband. All of these were down the drain for Claire for she was brought down by her first love in his death. Having lived in a conservative time, Claire is even more doomed when she slowly realizes that what she assumes to be genuine love may not be at all and is only a product of her own ignorance. What more, her clouded decisions driven by this notion leads her to Herefordshire where her deceased lover’s childhood friends introduce her to twisting troubles of attraction, mystery, love. But, above all, in Herefordshire Claire discovers her self.
Claire is an impressive woman. Barred from a lot of life experiences, she goes against the conventions of her time with the intention of fostering her deluded love for her dead lover, only to find out that he was not what she thought him to be. I would imagine a woman abruptly left alone to fend for herself would definitely be scared, but Claire displayed a commendable courage that ultimately led to her growth as a person. Understandably, she’s made some mistakes, even grave ones that would pummel any weak human enough so they can no longer stand up. Claire went through it all with her heart and soul.
And then there’s Rhys Fitzgordon and Edward Latimer that provided the exciting twist of love triangle in this novel. Two gentlemen with contrasting appeals—Rhys being the aloof and enchanting Viscount of Monfort estate and Edward, the handsome and dependable reverend— show Claire what she’s missing and open her eyes to both the best and worst of life.
There was no doubt in me that Rhys was who I would be rooting for from the get go. He is one fever dream of a man. A realist who was too damaged from his past who needed to be saved, his realist perspective awakened Claire’s romantic views to the world; the same way Claire softened his toughened heart. I could not, however, fault Claire for marrying Edward for she, despite everything that she’s been through, was still a woman with ideals and Edward provided that for her.
*End of Spoiler*
More than finding what true love is for her, it is more of witnessing a woman both sheltered and caged from the reality of life find her true self in her discoveries and mistakes. As she bravely throws herself into the chasm of an unconventional life wherein no one is responsible for her welfare but herself, I became a spectator to her tumultuous life full of fear, doubts, and risks. Reading Memory’s Bride can be likened to witnessing the growth of an innocent child, or the first flight of a chick from its nest.
While I can’t measure historical accuracy, as a reader I can vouch that this Victorian story of a woman made victim of her conservative time, who learns from her mistakes to rise to become wiser, will not disappoint you. Written by award-winning journalist, Decca Price, Memory’s Bride has received a nod of approval as a Daphne du Maurier finalist in the unpublished historical category in its early stages in 2015.
How did that sound to you? Interesting enough to read?
Well, like I said, it won’t disappoint you.
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