Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: The Companion of Lady Holmeshire by Debra Brown

A baby girl was found in a basket on Squire Carrington's doorstep. She was raised and sent to work as a servant girl for The Countess of Holmeshire. The widowed and unconventional Countess chose Miss Emma Carrington as a companion and sent her off for finishing with the goal of dragging her along into genteel Victorian society. What sort of reception would she have at tea and dinners? The young Earl of Holmeshire was engaged by arrangement to a lovely London lady, but their relationship was difficult. Could they work it out? Even the tribulations and banned romances of the servants downstairs play into the story as we follow Emma from a stone fortress to a Victorian village and then into fabulous London mansions. Great surprises unfold at a Midsummer Night's Dream Ball which help to solve mysteries that have gradually developed. You are invited to predict the great revelation of the last few pages! 

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

3 Stars

The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, the debut novel by author Debra Brown, is a charming tale set in England during the early years of Queen Victoria's reign.  The novel centres around Emma Carrington, a young woman of unknown parentage who, after serving within the Holmeshire household for several years, is sent away to be educated and returns to assume the position of companion to Lady Holmeshire.    

Overall, I enjoyed this first effort from Debra Brown.  The author's writing style and attention to period detail successfully take the reader back to early Victorian England.   The main characters are endearing, leaving the reader rooting for their happiness.  Nevertheless, I can't help but feel this novel tried to do a little too much.  While Emma's life as companion to Lady Holmeshire serves as the principal focus, the novel also contains several secondary plot lines.  These include the arranged engagement of the Earl of Holmeshire and Lady Genevieve, an engagement neither party is particularly enthusiastic about, as well as the Earl's efforts to improve the conditions of England's poor.  There is also a story line related to the budding romance between Emma's maid and a footman from another high society home, as well as a possible romance for Emma herself with a well-respected barrister -- although it seems Emma's heart lies elsewhere.   Lastly, there is an element of mystery threaded throughout the narrative, a mystery that for most of the book has seemingly little to do with Emma.  While I found most of the secondary plot lines entertaining, a couple of them -- particularly the romance between the lady's maid and the footman -- were of little benefit to the advancement of the novel's principle plot line and served only to detract from it.   Notwithstanding my feelings that this book had a little too much going on, I do think the author did a good job of tying everything together in the end.  This ultimately left me satisfied with the novel.

The Companion of Lady Holmeshire should appeal to readers looking for lighter fare that harkens back to days gone by, especially those with a penchant for Jane Austen-type spin-offs or Georgette Heyer Regency romances. 

Disclosure: The author of this novel kindly provided me with an e-copy for review.  This is no way influenced my opinion of the book.