THE YOUNG PRETENDER – Sheila Simonson
Regency Romance e-Novella
England, the 1820s
After spending the last months in London—the last months of her dear sister Fanny's life—Lady Jean Conroy and Alice, her companion, travel home to Brecon, the principal seat of the earls of Clanross. The palace is now the home of her distant cousin, Tom, the new earl, and his countess, Jean's eldest sister Elizabeth. Home for Jean and her younger sisters has been the dower house for several years now under the care of a governess, the much loved Miss Bluestone. Yet when Jane and Alice enter the dower house, they find it empty and cold. The rains have dangerously overfilled the nearby ornamental lake and weakened the banks; a flood is on the way. The estate manager, Mr. Alexander Sholto, a Scot, has come to rescue them by boat. It isn't an easy trip.
The late earl and countess had eight daughters, though several are married and away. Jean must now tell the younger girls, Georgina and Caroline, that Fanny finally succumbed to the consumption…not something she's looking forward to, but she will be happy to see them and Miss Bluestone. Jean is six and twenty, having no interest in marriage after suffering a youthful heartbreak and spending years in trying to make Fanny well. Faced with that cold empty house, she learned how little she is fit to care for herself without servants. She has never lit a fire and she has no idea how one makes bread. Once settled into the palace, she's determined to learn. Meanwhile, Christmas is coming and the family and neighbors get together for some mild entertainments suitable for a house in mourning.
Ms. Simonson's writing is so engaging that one can imagine oneself a member of the gathering, her depiction of daily life can make one can feel right at home. The characters in THE YOUNG PRETENDER are life-like and mostly likable. Among them are two men of note. One is a neighbor and highly eligible gentleman—a friend of her political sister and her husband— who seems very interested in Jean. The other is Sholto, the earl's steward, whom Jean considers a good friend in spite of his lower position in society. Some quite humorous interaction takes place between the latter two.
THE YOUNG PRETENDER is short but lovely, a most enjoyable read. Happily, you can meet a younger Jean and her sisters in digital editions of LADY ELIZABETH'S COMET and LOVE AND FOLLY first in print in the 1980s. Check them all out at www.uncialpress.com , where you'll find many excellent choices.