Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy form Publisher
In her latest Inspirational Regency romance, Julie Klassen brings readers to Devonshire, England in the year 1815 where we find an artist’s daughter, Sophie Dupont, who fell in love with a visiting artist but now finds herself abandoned and in a bit of a delicate predicament. Like Marianne Dashwood, Sophie believed herself loved, and though the words were “never absolutely” spoken, she expected that her lover would declare himself and marry her. Sadly for Sophie, this didn’t happen. Instead the man who stole her heart, Wesley Overtree, jumped at a fortuitous opportunity to travel to Italy and paint. In a mad rush to be off, Wesley didn’t say good-bye in person, he just left a brief note with no declarations or promises.
On a mission to find his older brother, Captain Stephen Overtree travels to Lynmouth in hopes of convincing Wesley to come home and help their ailing father by assuming his estate responsibilities. However, he doesn’t find Wesley, he instead finds Sophie and is quick to guess her relationship with his brother and the situation she now finds herself in. As readers will soon find out, Stephen Overtree is a most honorable and responsible man. He feels it is his duty to help Sophie out. There isn’t time to travel to Italy and bring Wesley back, so Stephen does the only thing he can think of and offers marriage and the protection of his name to Sophie himself.
Oh my…this story gripped me from the very first page and many times I found myself unable to summon the willpower to put it down! I found myself completely enamored with Sophie, Stephen, and the impossibly tangled situation they found themselves in. Sophie has just bound herself to a virtual stranger to save her reputation – a man who has a brusque and militant persona and whom she suspects to be harsh and violent. Stephen is in the awkward of position of having a wife who is in love with his brother not him, yet his own heart can’t help but feel some affection for her. Add to that, this couple must play the part of happy newlyweds in front of their relations who cannot help but feel a bit suspicious about such an impetuous marriage…
Do you see what I mean? This premise and situation is delicate, risky, and fraught with complications. I think what I loved most about The Painter’s Daughter – aside from the engaging characters – was witnessing how this abruptly decided marriage “in name only” would play out . Would Sophie ever have a change of heart? How will Wesley react when he learns about his brother’s marriage? Will anyone discover the whole truth about Sophie and Wesley? The anticipation was delicious, the tension was palpable, and the emotional turbulence was rendered with beautiful poignancy. My heart went out to Sophie, our plain and modest heroine, who like Jane Eyre, was often overlooked, unused to being admired, and often not treated as an equal. I can understand her falling in love with the first person to notice her. And poor Stephen claimed my heart as well. He lives in the shadow of his favored older brother, feels ashamed of his unsightly scar, and believes in a prediction that he may not live to see his thirtieth birthday.
Aside from a compelling plot and admirable characters, Julie Klassen infuses her story with lovely touches of romance, intrigue, history, and faith. And as always, the balance she strikes between all these components feels just right. In addition, I greatly enjoyed the attention paid to secondary characters in this tale and I was so happy to spot some Jane Austen quotes cleverly woven in various parts of the text. It may surprise no one to hear me say that I deeply loved this arrestingly beautiful new Inspirational Regency romance from Julie Klassen and it has definitely become my new favorite!