Book Review: A Marchioness Below Stairs

28 Aug

Escaping from Bath and the news that her former love is about to marry another, Isabel, the young widowed Marchioness of Axbridge, accepts an invitation to her cousin’s house party. Yet, instead of finding respite, she stumbles into a domestic crisis of majestic proportions: The kitchen servants have succumbed to the influenza.

If that weren’t bad enough, her former sweetheart arrives with his fiancée, seeking shelter from the increasingly hazardous snow storm. Trapped inside Chernock Hall with a volatile mix of house guests, including abolitionists and slave owners, Isabel wishes she could hide below stairs for the duration. But, alas, she cannot. While helping in the kitchen, Isabel is cornered by her cousin’s disreputable friend, Marcus Bateman, who challenges and provokes her at every turn.

At last, the storm subsides. However, the avalanche of repercussions cannot be undone. Caught in the grip of the terrible winter of 1813, will Isabel’s greatest threat come from the weather, her abolitionist views, or from falling in love again?

Alissa Baxter wrote her first Regency romance, The Dashing Debutante, during her long university holidays. After traveling the world, she settled down to write her second Regency romance, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which was inspired by her time living on a country estate in England. A Marchioness Below Stairs, her third Regency romance, is the sequel to Lord Fenmore’s Wager. Also the author of two contemporary romances, Send And Receive and The Blog Affair, Alissa is a member of RWA as well as ROSA (Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa). Alissa currently lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two sons.

My Impressions:

On the surface, A Marchioness Below Stairs seems like a typical Regency novel with the emphasis on manners and romance. That’s partly true, however, this novel has more — more insight into the status of women and other vulnerable members of the early 19th century society. Alissa Baxter has penned a novel that will appeal to the Regency fan, but also to those who want a bit of depth to their historical reading. Recommended.

A Marchioness Below Stairs does indeed open with the scandalous activity of a lady cooking with the help of a gentleman. While modern readers may shrug and think what’s the big deal?, this just wasn’t done in the strict class system of Regency England. The early part of the novel is an interesting look at the manners of the gentry and titled, but the real core of the novel begins when the main character, Isabel, moves to London for the Season. Isabel is an interesting character who wants to keep her hard won independence rather than being trapped by matrimony. Her views on women’s rights and abolition of slavery are heavily influenced by the writings of Mary Wollestencraft and William Wilberforce. I loved learning about the stirrings of independence for those kept vulnerable and enslaved. What modern readers take for granted was new, unique, and controversial in the early 1800s. There is plenty of Regency elements to keep fans satisfied, but I liked the historical and political framework the author uses. Romance, intrigue, mystery, and suspense are also strong elements in this novel. The author gives the characters a moral compass and a faith in God that informs their actions and motives — this will appeal to inspirational fiction readers too. I liked just about everything in this novel — the characters, the setting, the historical details, and the sweet and tender romance. The novel also made me hungry! From white soup to savory curry dishes, cuisine is a big part of the book. Yum!

So if you like Regency romance with a dash of suspense and a glimpse into real life behind the balls and country parties, A Marchioness Below Stairs is for you!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE. (It’s only $3.99 on Kindle)

(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

2 Responses to “Book Review: A Marchioness Below Stairs”

  1. bellesmoma16 at 7:14 pm #

    Interesting concepts. This novel sounds deep. I’ll have to check it out. 😀

    Like

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