“His death would put an end to the curse that had plagued his family for generations, and it seemed fitting for that to occur at the place where it all began.”Passing the local church on the way William is attracted by the music being played and he goes in to listen. He recognises the woman playing the music as his former childhood playmate, the vicar’s eldest daughter Hannah, the sole bright spot of his youth.
Hannah is having a very bad day. It is her twenty seventh birthday, which means she is now officially an old maid. She has had a busy and useful life for the past few years, helping her father tend his flock and raise her sisters after the death of her mother, but she would like a family of her own. She is trying to accept that her dreams of marriage and motherhood are going to remain just that – dreams. Later that day she goes to visit her mother’s grave and finds William has collapsed in the graveyard. She immediately goes to help him, but finds herself in a dilemma. The steward of the estate has dismissed nearly all the staff and is currently away on a ‘business trip’ so there is nobody to pay for medical care for William and nobody will go there from kindness due to the curse. Hannah decides to go and care for him herself with the naive hope that her status as an old maid will protect her reputation, and the reputation of her sisters by association. It probably would have made more sense for her to have nursed him in the vicarage, but she doesn’t realise how little assistance she will have at Blackthorn Manor.
William has been sorely lacking in tender care in his life, and becomes very fond of Hannah’s company. This is in addition to finding her extremely attractive, a feeling that is mutual. In these times unmarried men and women couldn’t really be friends and William can’t offer anything more, though he finds himself wishing that he could. When circumstances intervene William and Hannah find themselves thrown together once more, but will he be able to continue to resist her?
I thought this was a very entertaining read although there were a few times I had to suspend my disbelief a bit, I really don’t think he could have returned home from war abroad with his arm as it was and I also believed that if people were as happy and relieved to get servant work as they appeared to be they would have been more discreet – if they’d been my servants I’d have got rid of them all and rehired! Nothing is kept secret, and even allowing for servants gossiping things which they were never told somehow get to be common knowledge.
I really liked both the hero and the heroine. I deeply pitied William for how sad and unloved his life had been. Only in the army had he found acceptance, when he could leave his horrible family and the memory of the curse behind.
The thoughts of both William and Hannah are often really amusing, and I enjoyed their dry humour. Here is William with a hangover:
“He was clearly suffering some terrible, life-threatening malady.....There was no point to Hannah catching whatever dreaded disease had claimed him.”Their attitudes in some respects seemed to be a little too modern in my eyes, particularly their attitudes to sex. Although some reasoning is given for this, considering both of them are virgins they seem to know an awful lot about sex and are happy to openly discuss it with just about anybody! There were a few words and phrases which jumped out as being too modern, or American, e.g. ‘darned’ and things such as William making a reference to his disabled left hand only noticing when he has to cut his food but it would notice anytime he eats because the custom in Britain is to have the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right at all times, not just when cutting food. I also am not sure whether a ‘sulky’ is a carriage that would have generally been found in England at the time, I would have thought a gig or phaeton would be more likely, depending on what class of person was driving, but these are small quibbles in the scheme of things.
There are some interesting secondary characters introduced in this novel, too. Hannah’s friend, Grace Daniels is the illegitimate daughter of a lord, who was cast out by her stepmother after her father’s death. She now provides apothecary care and herbal tinctures to the community and she was instrumental in saving William’s life by her work on his arm. She gets off to a very poor start with William’s new steward, and it’s a real mystery as to why, but Grace’s story seems set to be told in the second book in the series, Duty and Desire, due out in early 2015, which I'd certainly like to read. I thought Passion and Propriety was a very entertaining book and it was a lovely way to while away a rainy Sunday! This is better than a 3 star read but not quite a 4 for me. Please note, for those of you who prefer to avoid them, that this novel contains sex scenes.
*Many thanks to the publisher of this book, The Writer's Coffee Shop, for allowing me to have an e-ARC copy via Netgalley for my honest review.