Book Review: What a Woman Desires

What a Woman DesiresWhat a Woman Desires by Rachel Brimble
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So nice to read a historical novel with a heroine who's strong and gutsy, without being insanely anachronistic. Monica Danes left Biddestone for the bright lights of Bath's Theatre Royal after a distressing incident with an unsuitable suitor. She's vowed never to go back, and the only thing that could change her mind is the knowledge that after her father's death, her mother and sister desperately need her help. Still, she plans to make her visit as brief as possible, but fate has other plans for her.
Her mother's illness, her sister's loneliness, and the terms of her father's will conspire to tie her to the village, and then of course there's Thomas, her father's former groom and right-hand man, who's so obviously destined for Monica that the question is not whether, but how, the couple can breach society's carefully constructed walls to be together. While Monica is a little more daring than the average period heroine, Thomas could easily have stepped out of the pages of one of Hardy's more cheerful books. Like Gabriel Oak, he's the perfect true-hearted Englishman, and it's a pleasure to see him come into his own over the course of a story which has plenty of character development on all sides.
Talking of characters, there are some delightful minor characters and several who seem to deserve their own stories. In particular, I'm keen to know what becomes of Jane once she's finally freed of the constraints of her tyrannical father and moaning mother. All in all, from the quiet confines of Biddestone to the flicker of footlights in the city, this is a beautifully drawn world which welcomes the reader in and doesn't let go easily. A must read.

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