What I Read This Weekend . . .
Note: see pictures of Felicia's bed chamber at the official Strawberry Hill website.
Miss Felicia Brook is forced by a carriage accident that killed her aunt and wounded her uncle, to temporarily take up residence at the Earl of Chessyre's country residence. As her uncle succumbs to internal injuries, he tells Felicia that she has been cheated. She ponders on the meaning of his words and vows to investigate if she can get to London. The Earl is most helpful in dealing with arrangements, but he's rather reserved and Felicia isn't sure she likes him. William, once thwarted in marriage prospects, now suspects all women of being conniving. At first he thinks Felicia arranged the carriage accident outside his gates on purpose, but once he meets Felicia's scheming cousins who would keep her on as an unpaid servant, he swears to himself that he will protect Felicia from them. When his eccentric Aunt Emma decides to spend the winter in London, William decides Felicia will make the perfect companion for his aunt. Felicia heads to London with Lady Emma and learns that her duty is to assist Lady Emma in winning the hand of her long-time, traveling beau who is now ready to settle down in England. Felicia is so busy she hardly has time to think about investigating her father's will. When William comes to town, he decides he is intrigued by the guileless Felicia and wants to protect her. When he discovers Felicia's slimy cousin Basil is also in town, William decides to ask his solicitor for help discovering whether Felicia's cheapskate relatives cheated her out of her father's fortune. The famous sculptress, Lady Anne Damer, decides she wants Lady Emma's beau to sit for her, Felicia decides to go along to Strawberry Hill and watch the sculptress at work with the intention of making sure that Lady Emma's beau doesn't succumb to the charms of Lady Anne. While visiting the gothic home of Horace Walople, the famous writer of The Castle of Otranto, Felicia finds herself participating in a play based on the novel. Her fellow actors include William, the Earl of Chessyre, his charming cousin Stephen and the lovely and a accomplished young debutante. The cast also includes a few surprises and when life begins to imitate art, the Earl is more convinced he needs to protect Felicia from harm and Felicia is convinced that the Earl's motives are purely brotherly. William must convince Felicia that only he can keep her safe before it's too late.
The plot focuses more on the gothic than the romantic. As a result, I just didn't feel the romance between the two characters. The story is told mainly from Felicia's point of view, so that also added to the lack of chemistry between the two characters. Most of their interactions involve him wanting to protect her and her confused feelings for him. I preferred Lady Emma's story line. She's a woman who knows what she wants and goes after it, even if she is slightly unconventional. She made me chuckle a bit and relieved the tension of the gothic plot. There was too much going on and I often forgot that Felicia's uncle had told her that she had been cheated. The book isn't very tightly written but it's a quick, light read if you like the more traditional Regency plot. There a few kisses and chaste touching, nothing more.