The finery and delicate life of women in the 19th century has long been explored in the works of authors such as Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. It’s with this framework that many will come to understand the social demands of the era, as well as the females who rail against the norms. Taking a cue from its predecessors, Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, follows a young woman who isn’t an entirely “proper” lady.
Marianne Daventry has been living in Bath with her grandmother for a year and a half, while her twin sister Cecily has her season in Town (London) and her father travels around France after the untimely death of her mother. Marianne enjoys her time outside in the country, much to her stern grandmother’s chagrin in her endeavor to ensure her future as a lady. When the opportunity arises to leave Bath in favor of Edenbrooke, the estate of her late mother’s best friend, Marianne is thrilled to have the chance, but the enjoyment is dampened a bit when her carriage is attacked by a highway man. It’s a chance meeting at an inn to get help that brings Marianne in contact with Philip Wyndham, the son of Marianne’s mother’s friend, but their interactions are shrouded with humor and frustration. With new experiences and romance in the air, Marianne’s life is going to change, but is her behavior going to change accordingly?
Donaldson’s writing is rather good; however, the story being told has been overdone, even if it was entertaining. It’s another Austenesque novel that plays off of miscommunication, with the main plot points easily anticipated. The characters were the standard fare for a novel of this sort and that makes it incredibly effortless to breeze through the story–but the interactions between Philip and Marianne are a bit more reflective of contemporary relationships, which helps make the story easier to relate to for younger audiences who might not have already read Pride and Prejudice and the like.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.