Regency Historical Romance
TITLE – Restoring Lady Anna
SERIES – Eversley Siblings Series
AUTHOR – Em Taylor
GENRE – Historical Regency Romance
PUBLICATION DATE – 1 May 2014
LENGTH – 55,000
COVER ARTIST – Veronica Fernandez
When Lord James Eversley is accused of a murder he did not commit, he dresses up as his new brother-in-law’s footman and hitches a ride in their carriage out of town. When it seems they are no longer being followed he begins to relax until a minor accident causes them to stop at a shabby looking inn. As his “master” and his sister sip tea in the scruffy parlour, James comes face to face with Lady Anna, the woman who left him in the dead of night five years before and a familiar looking child.
Lady Anna has accepted her life as Mrs Johnstone, mother of four-year-old Viola, “wife” of Peter, the mentally ill former footman and land lady of a shabby inn on the Great North Road. Her plans for a love match with the handsome Lord Eversley were cruelly snatched away from her five years before. Her ruination means there is no opportunity to return to her family or the ton. When James turns up, dressed as a footman and demanding answers, Anna must decide whether to tell the truth.
James never stopped loving Anna and now he must learn what happened that fateful night that Anna left him heartbroken. With the truth out in the open, he must convince the love of his life to take a chance on him. He wants to marry her and restore her reputation among the aristocracy. But in Regency England reputations are easily lost and difficult to regain. Can Anna trust James enough to do what is right for Peter, despite his actions, her child and most importantly himself? Can James convince Anna to seek the help that Peter needs and return to the ton?
“I…I… did not have a choice.”
“Were you in love with him?”
“No.” She should lie. She knew she should, but his light blue eyes seemed to bore holes into her very soul and she could not bear to hurt him further. She could not bear to have him think badly of her.
“Then I do not understand why you left. Was it… was… God dammit.” He took a large gulp of his ale and looked around before leaning close. “Was it the bedding? I know you were an innocent and it must have hurt but…”
“No.” She shook her head fervently. Could he really believe that the best night of her life had driven her from him? “That night… it was very special. You were wonderful and kind and caring. I could not have asked for a better lover the first time.”
Relief washed over his countenance before he frowned. “Then why?”
Should she tell him? Could she? “It is too complicated to explain, except to say that it was not my choice and it was not your fault.”
He pushed his long fingers through his blond curls and stared into his ale. “Is he—the footman—still alive?”
“Yes.” He looked into her eyes—the hope that had shone there moments before was gone.
“So you are married.”
“We never married.”
“You live in sin?”
“Yes. I refused to marry him—not even to give my daughter a name. I tell people I am Mrs Johnstone, but there are no legal documents and no marriage. Therefore, you can return to the ton, my lord, and tell them that Lady Anna Kingsley is a whore and has a bastard child.”
Now perhaps he would leave her alone to her miserable life and find someone who would make a proper countess when his father died. She swallowed hard, forcing back the tears. Willed herself to stay strong. She only had to stay strong until the damned ostlers could help Lord Ramsey’s horse.
“Shh! I will be returning to the ton to tell them no such thing. I wished you would tell me what actually happened, if for no other reason than to assuage my fear that it was something I did or said that drove you away. You said you have a daughter?”
“Yes. Viola. She is a pretty little thing but can be quite precocious when she wants to be. She would have made a beautiful debutante when her time came.”
“Mama. Who is this?” She turned to see Viola standing at her side and realised it had been the child who was tugging at her skirts.
James stared at the little girl standing next to Anna, tugging on the grey wool skirt. Blond hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks that reminded him of Rebecca when she was small. She even had the little turn up in her nose that was identical to his sister’s. But, it could not be. This child could not be his? They had made love but once—or at least just one night. But he had not withdrawn as he knew he should. He had been too caught up in the moment—in their love. Had Anna fallen with child that one glorious night, how old would a child be? Three? No—four! Was this little girl four? He had no idea how large or small a child should be at the age of four. He did not come into contact with many children.
But he did not have to ask her age. His sight told him that Viola was his as did something else…instinct perhaps?
He schooled his features so they were unreadable. Years of training to be a gentleman, to show no outward emotion, were now paying dividends.
“This is Lord Eversley, a friend of mine.”
“Oh. Pleased to meet you Lord Evasey.” She bobbed a small curtsey, and he noted that she over extended her back leg a bit like the actors did in the theatre at the curtain call. It was very sweet. The child obviously did not meet many members of the aristocracy. Though it was just like Anna to have taught her daughter to act like a lady in preparation for meeting a viscount or even a duke.
“Very pleased to meet you too, Viola.” She smiled dazzlingly at him. It really was like being taken back in time to when Rebecca was a child.
“Mama, he’s awake. I heard him shouting.”
“I see.” She turned to James. “I need to go just now. I have things that must be attended to.” Anna stood and looked like she was about to bob a curtsey but seemed to the think better of it, probably remembering he was supposed to be a footman.
He watched her leave, Viola’s hand in hers. He had sired a daughter and all this time he never knew. He did not need Anna to tell him that Viola was his flesh and blood—he knew it with every fibre of his being. If he said it outright, would Anna lie? Could she lie about something as monumental as him having a child? Not the Anna he once knew. But she was harder now—more resilient. He saw it in her eyes. Even though he had sensed she had been on the edge of tears, he suspected Mrs Anna Johnstone did not cry very often. But he must allow Anna to tell him in her own time. There was a lot more to this than a silly lady having her head turned by a handsome footman.
Was the person who had just woken the footman? Why had Viola looked unhappy when she had to announce the footman was awake? And why was Anna the one working in the taproom?
He would find out, and he would not leave this place until he knew the whole truth and certainly he would not leave without his daughter.
Passionate and Compelling Regency
This Regency romance by Em Taylor examines some heavy issues – kidnap, mental health and social mores – in particular the expectations imposed on women by the Ton. However, at the centre of the tale is the romance between Anna and James. Fate has now reunited them but their current circumstances could not be more different and there are moral as well as social dilemmas to overcome if they are to secure their HEA.
Both the hero and the heroine of this novel are well developed characters – Anna is no vacuous Regency miss and neither is James a fop or wastrel and they both exhibit a high level of maturity and compassion for others in addressing the predicament they find themselves in. That the couple are still deeply enamoured with each other is beyond doubt and there are many sizzling love-making scenes. Anna is certainly a woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to give James what he needs and James finds it difficult to restrain himself.
The central conflict however remains – how can Anna be persuaded to resume her place in society, when she has not only been disgraced, living with a man out of wedlock, but also having birthed an illegitimate child? Her fears are not just for herself but also for the potential impact on her daughter and James. The issue of Peter’s future and his mother Agnes, with whom she and her daughter have forged a strong bond, is also problematic.
I understood Anna’s dilemma and applauded James’ patience in addressing her concerns. The scenes where the author depicts James’ conflicting emotions: surprise; relief; joy; anger; frustration and passion, are very well done. Will Anna consent to be his wife and return to society or will she find it impossible to contemplate despite her love for James? Also if she does resume her rightful place as an Earl’s daughter will James be able to deal with any fallout?
I enjoyed how the author contrasts the life Anna was thrust into as an ordinary member of Regency society and the life of the aristocracy. I particularly liked how it gave the hero a deeper insight into those less fortunate than himself. The depiction of Peter’s mental illness and how the hero and heroine react to it is also enlightening and heartrending
All in all Restoring Lady Anna is a sexy, passionate and thought -provoking novel, which provides a fascinating perspective on Regency society. I recommend it to romance readers in general, particularly those who enjoy Regency romances or reads where issues affecting women’s role in society are under the spotlight.
Reviewed by Tina Williams
A copy of this novel was provided by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.
Em was born and brought up in the Central Belt of Scotland and still lives there. She was told as a child she had an over active imagination–as if that is a bad thing. She’s traded her dreams of owning her own island, just like George in the Famous Five to hoping to meet her own Mr Darcy one day. But her imagination remains the same.
Unfortunately, Em was put off reading and writing by school and although she rediscovered her love of reading many years ago, she only tried her hand at writing again in 2011. After a year of writing fan fiction, she wrote an original short story for an anthology. This was followed up with two more shorts and 4 novella length books, all published under a pen name. Having fallen in love with a new sub-genre, courtesy of books by Mary Balogh and Lynsay Sands, she decided to try her hand at her new favourite genre for reading–regency.
Having bitten the bullet, she feels she has found her home in the 19th century, and it does give her an excuse to watch Colin Firth in a pair of buff breeches and riding books ad infinitum.
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