A Gentleman's Daughter: Her Choice by Reina M Williams Publisher: Self Published
Length: Full Length (311 pgs)
Rated: 5 Stars
Review by Snapdragon
Regency England: rakes and radicals, poets and patriots, the hardy and the hedonistic. What is a gentleman’s daughter to do in these changing and challenging times? She will skirmish for love, ever polite, though sometimes her white kid gloves must come off. Cecilia Wilcox’s frustrating and unsettling encounter with a handsome stranger is soon pushed from her thoughts by the appearance of her first love, the rakish, elegant best friend of her older brother. Disapproving of her daughter’s choice, her domineering mother takes her to London to find a husband. She introduces Cecilia to a charming rogue and the stranger, whose commanding and inscrutable presence both disturbs and captivates her. Amidst London balls and country house parties, Cecilia must wade through false assumptions, betrayals, and revenge to reclaim the man she loves.
Life is not all "breezes and birdsong" for Cecilia Wilcox, although, at the start of the nineteenth century-era novel, it does seem like it must be. She's grown up in the country and looks forward to a visit to London. Her home is particularly lovely - and lovingly described - as a largely "luminescent landscape." Best friend (and soon relative) Polly is admirable, and reveals to us that this is not the typically-envisioned wealthy family, but a small village family, with likely the smaller income to match.
To my delight, this story - taking place in a time and place so oft used as setting - is set in a slightly different world from the usual realm of scheming blue bloods. There are drawing rooms, and even balls. Of course, Cecilia has the typical challenge of the day: Marriage. And it's not like there aren't possibilities - but the strongest possibilities are not exactly the ones we find ourselves hoping for.
Cecilia's days are hardly spent ordering around the servants, and the people she knows have good, honest goals. When 'Ret comes so charmingly into the picture... well it is as a disappointment at first. Surely, it cannot be that this man, no matter how attractive, is meant for Cecilia? Is he too much of a gentleman, older, more formal...and with none of the fun prospects I might hope she'd find. And yet then there is that about him that made me wonder. Is he more daring than I might have believed? Or, perhaps, somehow worse...Does he have a rather mean streak? Whether or not 'Ret is the man I suspected - or perhaps feared - keeps me guessing. Then there is the dashing Thornhill, and other potential suitors, which makes this a page-turner. The marriage-market is stressful and unpredictable and so much fun.
Conversational style reflects the era, is mostly charming, and moves the story right along. However, back story occasionally slows the pace - some of the past interactions of characters might have been better presented in conversation. Family issues, like Cecelia getting along with her Mom, and the comments of Mrs. Partridge and others, are all so incredibly real and believable, you will feel the same frustration many a young woman has with the opinions of the older! The 'rules of society' can seem so ancient, and pointless!
Surprise features highly here, too: there are a number of twists and turns that are completely unpredictable and all the better for that.
Overall, this entire work is so very nicely presented. Ms. Williams weaves words into enchanting prose paintings, until every reader will imagine wandering arm-in-arm with a best friend, through fields full of blossoms. This is not always the fastest-paced novel, but savoring the moments can be wonderful, too. Historical romance readers should put this right at the top of their list.