The Nature of a Lady
The Nature of a Lady is the first novel I’ve read by this author, and as it happens, it’s the first novel in her new series The Secrets of the Isles. I enjoy stories of mistaken identity, and with the addition of a mysterious disappearance, two love stories, a brilliant guidebook to life on the Isles of Scilly, and a strong spiritual theme, the book offers a good read. Although I found the pacing a tad slow in parts, overall, I found the novel enchanting.
In the upper crust of English society, Lady Elizabeth Sinclair just doesn’t fit. She’d rather lie on her stomach in a garden sketching new insects, peer through her microscope at the unseen world, or read up on a newly discovered plant than take part in the social events required of a woman of her station. Libby chafes at the restraints and wonders at a God who would plant one of His creations in such a mismatched situation. When her brother, the Earl of Telford, begins to arrange a marriage for her with his best friend, Libby has had enough. Her maid, Mabena Moon, suggests that Libby summer in Mabena’s homeland, the Isles of Scilly, twenty miles off the coast of Cornwall. Mabena can visit family while Libby can give the prospective groom some time to discard her brother’s idea.
The two women arrive on St. Mary’s to learn they have rented a cottage which had previously been let to a young lady, also named Elizabeth, who vanished unexpectedly. As they settle in, they find the other Elizabeth’s clothes and books still in place. A copy of Treasure Island has been marred with extensive hand-written notes including a peculiar poem that talks of faeries and the sea. Over the next few days, Libby is approached by men who address her as “Elizabeth” and hand over notes, an eighteen-pound cannonball, and money. No explanation arises until another man arrives on their doorstep demanding to know “Where’s my sister?”
After two weeks with no letters from his sister Beth, Oliver Tremayne is worried. Her silence and his grandmother’s fretting that “Beth isn’t where she ought to be” have his nerves on edge. Now he’s facing two women, one of whom he knows very well – Mabena Moon, a close friend from the Isles – the other one he briefly met two years before, Elizabeth, the Earl of Telford’s sister. The mystery blossoms as the three would-be detectives begin to piece together clues from tales of pirates and buried treasure, artifacts, and even a treasure map, all the while continuing to look for the missing Beth. The author displays a deft touch in interweaving the romance storylines through the detective work and the discovery of criminals active in the Isles.
There’s a phrase of encouragement I’ve sometimes heard: ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ Despite the location or circumstances in which you might find yourself, look for a way to thrive. The novel suggests that in some cases, a person might need to move to another location to bloom properly. As Libby struggles with her feeling of being out of place, she doubts that the God of her upbringing has a plan for her until she visits Scilly. Living as close to nature as the locals do, they intuit that God’s love and presence are bigger than what the traditional church might describe. Oliver’s grandmother, with her strengthening sight “across the veil” into the divine realm beyond provides more evidence of the breadth of God’s presence. Libby’s time with Oliver, his grandmother, and the bountiful creation in Scilly shows her a broader way to embrace the Divine.
The Nature of a Lady also sets up the islands as the location for the next books in the series. The descriptions are lush and set among interactions between characters, the romances, the unravelling mysteries, and spiritual theme. The one thing that kept me from rating this book a DIK was the slow pace in some sections where I wanted less island description and more attention on the mystery and romances. Nonetheless, The Nature of a Lady is an enjoyable read, with a thoughtful discussion of the nature of God.