If I was forced to make a short, really short, list of outstanding traditional Regency Romance authors, Joan Wolf is one who would be on that list in a flash. Her Regency Romances – most notably His Lordship’s Mistress and A London Season – are classics and worth the trouble of hunting for. With Silverbridge, Joan Wolf shifts gears and gives us a story set in modern times, although she does throw in a couple of ghosts from the Regency period.
Tracy Collins is an American actress and a big star. She is in England where she has a small but meaty part in a prestigious picture based on a best-selling historical novel. The movie is being filmed at the beautiful, historic estate of Silverbridge. Harry Oliver, the Earl of Silverbridge, has allowed the crew to film there since he badly needs the money. His stately home is a drain on him, but it is his life. Harry loves his land like a Medieval lord and is resisting an offer from Mauley, a developer who wants the land for a resort and golf course. Harry’s brother, Tony, and his sister Meg would like to see him sell the land. They don’t have the attachment to it that Harry does, and they hate to see him struggle so.
A few days into the filming, a fire guts the hotel where Tracy and the cast and crew are staying. Meg, who has been fascinated by the filming and who has become friends with Tracy, offers to let her stay at Silverbridge. Harry is not too happy with it, but when he finds that she, like himself, is a serious equestrian, he begins to warm up.
The film is running smoothly, but then “accidents” begin to plague Silverbridge. Harry’s stable goes up in flames, nearly destroying all his horses. Then he is hurt in an automobile accident caused by a severed brake line. Harry thinks it might be Mauley behind these accidents but he has no proof. In the meantime, Tracy keeps seeing visions of a man and woman who resemble Harry and herself, but they are dressed in Regency clothing. Who are they, and are they trying to warn her about something?
Silverbridge was a book that was as smooth and polished as old silver. Everything fit together like a perfect puzzle, and it was as beautiful as a stately home. But it was too smooth, too perfect and too cold. There were times I wanted the characters to act up – I wanted Tracy to do something TSTL, or act like a diva (she is an actress after all). I also wanted Harry to muss that perfect façade of his and sweat. But instead, they were so correct that they made Miss Manners look like a boor. I could not dislike them, but I could not care for them either.
There were other problems with Silverbridge as well. Just why did Harry want to hang on to his land so very badly? The way it was presented, he would have had plenty of property left, and the money needed to run his stables. I got the feeling that it was not so much that he loved the land, but that he hated golf and could not bear that his property would be used for a golf course. His actions at the end were problematic too. Meg has anorexia, and supposedly Harry is very concerned about it, but he treats her with the same cool courtesy that he reserves for everyone.
Tracy was so nice she was almost unreal. She had married her childhood sweetheart who had then been killed in an accident. She had become an actress almost by chance, and had gone on to become a big star. She was sweet, nice, professional, and lovable. She did not act the diva, she had not slept around, she had no entourage. Tracy was beautiful even with no makeup, she ate like a real person, yet stayed slim, and could ride a horse, cook, and be a mother-figure to Meg. She was perfect. I could not dislike her, but I longed for her to have a few faults so she would seem real.
The mystery of Silverbridge’s accidents is not solved through good old-fashioned sleuthing, but via the paranormal element I mentioned earlier. This premise was wasted in the book as far as I’m concerned; the ghosts were as proper, polite, and cold as the humans.
Silverbridge has got to be the most frustrating book I have read this year. I want to emphasize that it is not a badly written book, it is very well written indeed, but it is so cool and detached that there were times I longed for some good old-fashioned bodice shredding.