In her youth, Lady Georgiana Hayden, eldest daughter of the Duke of Sudbury, displayed a disturbing – and unladylike – penchant for scholarship, wishing to learn Latin and Greek in order to be able to further her interest in ancient poetry. The only person ever to have taken her seriously is Andrew Mallet, the son of the local schoolmaster. Four years her junior, and far below her station, Andrew was an intelligent and educated young man who helped Georgiana with her rudimentary translations from ancient Greek, and fostered her interests. Along the way, the young couple formed an attachment for each other, but then Andrew joined the army – completely out of the blue – and departed immediately to join his regiment in India.
Georgina now lives alone (with a companion) in Cambridge, and has spent the last decade or so collecting and collating the poetry of obscure, female poets from Ancient Greece, and researching into their history and backgrounds. Aged thirty-five and a confirmed spinster, she has made this project her life’s work, and desperately wants to be able to translate the poetry and fragments she has unearthed, but is frustrated because her background knowledge is not extensive enough, and her grasp of the language is not sufficiently comprehensive.
Knowing that Andrew Mallet also resides in Cambridge, Georgiana’s thoughts keep turning in his direction. He could help with her work, but they have not seen each other since his precipitate departure all those years ago. Her attempts to engage him in social situations fail, but when he is incapacitated following an operation on his hip (which was badly injured at Waterloo), she sees her chance to make him indebted to her by providing various little “extras” to help his recovery and make his life easier.
When he’s well, she asks him to help her with her work, and grudgingly he agrees. What Georgiana doesn’t know, however, is that his disinclination to help her doesn’t come from dislike or any other ill-feeling; it’s because he’s still in love with her and knows it will test his fortitude to be constantly in her presence.
Andrew and Georgiana rekindle their romance through their “work” – and honestly, I really did get tired of the frequency with which that word appeared. But this is in fact one of the problems I have with the story; it comes across as being all about the “work”, with the romance relegated to second place.
The author has addressed some interesting issues, and has some good points to make, but what I read were the bare bones of a story which needed to be fully fleshed out. While there was enough to keep me interested, it was quite dry overall, and the romance was rather lifeless. The protagonists were separated years previously through the machinations of Georgiana’s family, yet this is something she only comes to suspect once Andrew comes back into her life. They are obviously still harbouring feelings for each other, but while the scenes in which they collaborate on exploring the meanings of the poems are well done, with Andrew gently leading Georgiana to broaden her thinking in order to gain a better understanding, the romance feels underdeveloped. The reader doesn’t really get to know either character outside of “the work”, and by extension, the characters don’t really have a “getting to know you” phase, either. It’s true they knew each other years ago, but there’s no sense of their getting to know the people they are now, outside of their intellectual collaboration.
Andrew is a one-dimensional character at best. The author attempts to make him more interesting by making him a scarred war-hero, but otherwise, he’s fairly bland. Georgiana is more rounded out, and the harshness of her upbringing can certainly be said to be responsible for the way she reacts in certain circumstances. Any attempt to (as she sees it) interfere with her life or take away her choices (such as, for example, when Andrew, unable to see her at her family home, decides to go ahead with publication of the book they have been working on), causes her to blow up first and ask questions after, but I couldn’t help but think that at thirty-five she should have perhaps developed the maturity to enable her to take a step back and realise that perhaps what Andrew was doing meant he had her best interests at heart – not that he was trying to run her life.
She makes this assumption on several occasions, and each time, it feels like an obvious device, being used to inject tension into a story which was badly in need of some. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. The best part of the romance comes towards the end when Georgiana sees the error of her ways and realises that a relationship has to be a two-way street, and that she has to allow Andrew to give – of himself as well as materially.
I noticed a few errors in the copy I had – for example, Andrew’s last name is Mallet, yet at one point, he’s called Holden. Originally, the age gap between him and Georgiana is given as two years, and later, it’s become four. I was also confused by the timeline – if Georgiana is thirty-five and Andrew thirty-one, he was away for eleven years, meaning he was twenty when he left. Yet we’re told he was fifteen when he first began to help Georgina with her ancient Greek. Given what we know about her family, I find it difficult to believe they’d have been able to keep their relationship secret for five years. There were also some issues with the formatting in the copy I had; ordinary paragraph spacing was used throughout, and there were no indications of scene or POV changes, which was confusing.
I believe this is a début novel and it’s not at all bad – but Ms Warfield needs to work on her characterisation and concentrate more on the development of the romance in future stories.