A Rumored Engagement
I’m a sucker for second-chance-at-love stories. I have autobuy authors I love and certain settings catch my eye, but when I’m taking a chance on a new author, favorite plotlines will often call my name. And second chance stories are definitely near the top of my list, with friends-to-lovers being a close second. For favorite tropes month on the TBR Challenge, I read A Rumored Engagement, a 2014 historical from Lily George. Though published as part of the Love Inspired Historical line, I suspect fans of Regency trads might like this one as well.
As the story opens, Susannah Siddons and her sisters prepare to open a millinery shop in the village of Tansley. Upon arrival, they run into a mishap with their door and when a man from the past comes to their rescue, we quickly learn about Susannah’s long-forgotten engagement to Daniel Hale of Goodwin Hall. The two had become engaged in part to help Susannah escape the plotting of the tyrannical uncle who was her guardian. However, Daniel took off to sea before any wedding could take place. Now, a few years later, Susannah and her sisters find themselves quite alone in the world. While gently born, their guardian spent all their inheritance and they now must work to earn a living.
It is obvious from the start that Susannah feels deeply responsible for her two younger sisters. She’s not the perfect, sweet martyr heroine, though. When she learns that Daniel Hale is not only back from his voyages but is now the master of Goodwin Hall, readers see her mixed emotions. Attraction, apprehension, and definitely some bitterness at her fate all creep through. In a way, I found it refreshing because this all shows Susannah to be quite human.
As the Siddons sisters get settled, Daniel can’t seem to stay out of their lives. Even though he was the one who essentially ran out on his childhood friend/fiancee, he also seems to have trouble coming to terms with what he believes, who he is, what he wants out of life. And as he muddles through some of these questions, he can’t seem to stay away from Susannah. She works very hard to make the shop a success and Daniel often shows himself to be a great friend and support to her.
The two quickly rekindle a rather uneasy friendship, and the spark of something more often hovers. Unfortunately, in a gossipy small village like Tansley, word can spread quickly. Word of the prior engagement with Daniel and the sight of the unmarried young woman keeping company with him are exactly the sort of things that can damage a businesswoman’s reputation in that time and place. We see Susannah having to fight extra hard to maintain her reputation and by extension, the viability of her business.
While Susannah could often come off as prickly and independent to the point of pushing others aside, I could understand her even as she frustrated me. After all, if she did not remain above reproach, respectable people might not frequent her business – a circumstance that could spell ruin and starvation for her and her sisters. The author does a good job of showing readers how much the sisters have to struggle to stay afloat.
Daniel’s change of heart was something that I found a little less convincing. I could believe that he had matured and grown more thoughtful. However, he seems to resolve his inner existential crisis a bit too abruptly. Or at least it seems this way to the reader as we do not get as clear a window into his thinking. He seems to be a likable hero but he never fully sprang to life for me. As a result, the romance between Daniel and Susannah felt a little muted as well.
A Rumored Engagement features a plot that is somewhat different than the usual Regency historical. While it’s not perfect, it does have its pleasant moments and it does feature characters outside the aristocracy. If, like me, you enjoy second chance at love stories, you may want to try this one.