As You Wish
This is one of those books that has a promising start and some interesting characters. And then it happens. Just when the hero and heroine are growing closer, they suddenly forget how to talk. Then when it becomes most important, they can’t bring themselves to say the “L” word. Another promising book gets derailed.
In present-day England, Leah Cantrell is on a tour of Solebury House, a manor that has seen better days. In a nearby spring, she finds an old coin. After making a wish and throwing the coin back into the spring, Leah finds herself in Regency England.
Once she recovers from the shock, Leah gets to know everyone – most importantly, David Traymore, the illegitimate son of the Marquess of Solebury. David is pretty sure Leah is insane. Despite his misgivings, they grow closer, but the very proper David resists his feelings. When Leah eventually tells David the truth, he is sure she is insane. Then, she finds a way back to the present, and somehow David manages to follow. Sadly, Solebury House is now bare and shabby, and the family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Does the past hold a key to its salvation?
We don’t learn enough about Leah’s background at first. We learn that she thinks of herself as meek, though she never acts that way at Solebury Manor. Only when she returns to the present do we learn that she had been controlled by her father and her ex-boyfriend. Why wasn’t more made of this earlier? Why was she able to stand up for herself now? This would have been a stronger novel if we had been told about her past from the start and given a chance to see her grow into a more independent woman.
David is more fully realized. He is a prisoner of his birth – not just because of his lower status, but because it forces him to be even more proper in his behavior. He believes the circumstances of his birth make him a lesser man, though his actions prove otherwise. When David starts to feel attracted to Leah, he thinks this proves that he is baseborn after all. After a while, I wanted to give him a nice book on self esteem.
David’s struggles to be proper add tension and humor to his scenes with Leah. The author paints a wonderful picture of the contrast between the two societies. Unfortunately, in part because they come from such different worlds, Leah and David wind up doubting each other. Leah expects David to act a certain way after they’ve made love. When he wears a stoic expression instead of grinning at her every time she comes in the room, she thinks that maybe he doesn’t love her after all. I thought she should have cut him some slack – after all, he did just make an unplanned trip into the future. David also contributes to the miscommunication. He fears that because Leah comes from a freer society, where unmarried couples can share a room without creating a scandal, perhaps love and marriage are no longer important. Yet he never thinks to ask her if this is true. This misunderstanding seemed unnecessary to me because it could have been resolved so quickly.
The secondary characters in the past were more likable than those in the present. Luckily, we spent more time with those people. David’s father, the Marquess of Solebury, was a sympathetic character. He tried very hard to make up for the past, yet David remained resentful of him for not marrying his mother. Had David been more forgiving, he would have been a more rounded character himself. As for Leah, those closest to her (in the present), were all presented as very bossy, making it difficult to understand why she remained loyal to those who used her as a doormat.
The past and present were linked in the plot in a very deft manner – the author deserves a great deal of credit for that. However, the solution to the present troubles at Solebury House was so obvious that was unbelievable that Leah and David didn’t think of it sooner. Also, the subplot where David suspects Leah might be a spy isn’t as important as the back cover would lead you to believe.
Perhaps because of its leisurely pace, this novel didn’t set off any fireworks for me. Still, I enjoyed the contrasts between the past and the present – enhanced by good use of point of view. I just wish Leah and David had learned how to use the “L” word sooner.