By Jessica Dotta
Published by Tyndall
427 Pages

Back Cover:  The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Review:  I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that plunged me into the middle of the Victorian Era and captivated my mind, and emotions. I agonized with main character Julia Elliston’s challenge. Her world turned upside down by the death of her mother. “She is orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands and/or guardians, Julia would soon discover she is at the mercy of an anonymous guardian, one who planed to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.”

 Julie goes to Am Meer to be with her Aunt and cousin. The only family she had. There she meets a woman who’s a match maker. She tells Julie she can find her a husband before she’s shipped off to Scotland for a nice price, decisions, decisions what would Julie do?

I hung on every word as the drama unfolded for the reader at the same time the main character learned her fate. Just when I thought I had things figured out the tale would morph into something I hadn’t expected. I was drawn into this authors’ world through her writing style, description, and she evoked deep emotion within my spirit. I lost all track of all time.

Julie thinks after she arrives at Am Meer, “Secrets I had kept. Lies I had told. All to protect two people who had ended up betraying me in every possible manner. My very flesh recoiled at the thought of being considered a frivolous youth, and it wrought a change in my countenance.

You gravely mistake me, then.” I said in a hard voice, ready to gather my shirts and leave.”

Later on in the story Julie says, “…I realized how much we’d lost over a simple misunderstanding. I have found that those who try to shield us from the truth, regardless of the reason, end up doing the greatest harm. Truth alone sets you free, not lies and omissions.”

I was hooked from the first page, you will be too. It says, “Later, when I allowed myself to confront the memories, to dwell on the particulars, I realized my arrival at Am Meer marked the beginning.

Not the mysterious letter that drained the life from Mama. Not her suicide….For those happenings were not my story. I was sinless there. They were the end result of events set in motion long before I arrived at the cottage. I could no more have stopped their unfolding than I could have prevented my own birth.”

This book is absolutely entertaining and brilliantly written, with lovable flawed characters. Full of witty dialogue that opened windows into a world of intriguing mystery as this author explores love, faith and honor. Jane Austen fans will love this instant classic that dropped me into all the richness of the Victorian Era. I highly recommend this book for a great read and a book club pick. You’ll have to leave extra time to talk about all the drama inside these pages. This is Jessica Dotta’s debut novel. It’s a must read and this author is one to watch.

Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!


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