Monday, February 13, 2017

Tour Book Review: The Worthington Wife, by Sharon Page



The Worthington Wife
(Roaring Twenties, Book 2)
Sharon Page
Trade Paperback, 442 pages
HQN Books
December 27, 2016
Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, 
Mystery, Romance

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29095431-the-worthington-wife?ac=1&from_search=true




Sharon Page sparkles in this poignant and irresistibly entertaining follow-up to her breakout novel, An American Duchess

Lady Julia Hazelton is the most dazzling among 1920s England's bright, young things. But rather than choosing the thrill of wanton adventure like so many of her contemporaries, Julia shocks society with her bold business aspirations. Determined to usher the cursed Worthington estate into a prosperous, modern new era, and thus preserve her beloved late fiancé's legacy, the willful Julia tackles her wildest, most unexpected adventure in Cal Carstairs, the reluctant new Earl of Worthington.

The unconventional American artist threatens everything Julia seeks to protect while stirring desires she thought had died in the war. For reasons of his own, Cal has designed the ultimate revenge. Rather than see the estate prosper, he intends to destroy it. But their impulsive marriage—one that secures Julia's plans as well as Cal's secrets—proves that passion is ambition's greatest rival. Unless Cal ends his quest to satisfy his darkest vendetta, he stands to ruin his Worthington wife and all her glittering dreams.





Note
The author provided me with an ARC of this novel in return for an honest review, which I was totally delighted to write! I feel I must add that the Goodreads synopsis above does NOT do justice to this highly compelling novel.

When opening a novel that has been classified as a romance, one expects certain things. Although this is a genre abounding in tropes and clichés, it still fulfills an emotional need for women. And when a romance novel goes above and beyond the conventions of the genre to deliver powerful messages, as well as delving into other genres, the reading experience is an immensely rewarding one!

Such is the case with The Worthington Wife, which I discovered to be highly compelling, riveting reading. Sharon Page has delivered a hugely satisfying story of romance, social justice, feminism, and even mystery thrown in for good measure. In the process, she has created larger-than-life, unforgettable characters! In addition to mixing in the mystery genre, her prose can classify this novel as literary fiction, too, as her beautiful descriptions are typical of that particular genre.

This is high praise indeed, and I affirm that it's very well deserved! In fact, I'm now having a hard time disconnecting from the fascinating world created by Page. I want to stay with Cal and Julia, to see what comes next for them. Perhaps the author will feature their family in her next novel, as this appears to be a series, although the present installment can be read as a stand-alone.

The beginning of the story reminds me of many a Regency romance (and thus, by extension, of Jane Austen), although it does take place in 1925. However, the main theme the plot starts with is the age-old concern of the aristocracy, in regards to young women: marriage. At the age of 27, Julia Hazelton has already gone through two romantic relationships that broke her heart. Understandably, she does not wish to marry yet, but is being pressured to do so by her mother and brother. But Julia is a modern woman. Having suffered in love, she now wants to live life on her own terms. And these terms are primarily concerned with helping war widows rebuild their lives, and become financially independent. But there's more: deep inside, Julia longs for passionate love. She does not want a marriage of convenience, to satisfy the society rules still in existence at the time. Beneath her prim exterior, Julia is a woman who FEELS. Her compassion for the war widows makes her a very likeable character. And her commitment to feminine freedom is admirable, precisely because she does want true love and passion, as well as the right to pursue her own interests.

The lead male character, Calvin (nicknamed 'Cal') Carstairs, seems to be Julia's opposite in every way; he has been characterized as 'a wild American artist', who has led a bohemian existence in Paris, painting nude women, and having several affairs with his models. He is brash, bold, and totally unconcerned with any conventional society rules. He is drawn to Julia because he senses her underlying passion, and wants to release it. He is perceived by the other characters of the novel as 'uncouth', with no gentlemanly manners whatsoever.

This is the man who has just become the Earl of Worthington. 

Worthington Park is one of the main focuses of the novel, right along with social justice, class equality, and women's rights. Julia loves the estate, which adjoins Brideswell Abbey, where she was raised. She has always been a good friend of the owners of Worthington Park, as well -- the Carstairs family, of which Cal is a member. Also, Julia had promised her former fiancé, Anthony Carstairs, who was subsequently killed in World War I, that she would do her utmost to look after his family, and the estate.

Cal, who travels to England to take over as the new earl, is bent on revenge against the English branch of the family. They had turned their backs on his parents when they married, as Cal's mother had been a maid prior to marrying his aristocratic father. Cal wants nothing more than to destroy Worthington Park, by selling it off, piece by piece. So, throughout the novel, it becomes Julia's mission to gradually persuade him not to do so, by getting him to care about the tenants of the huge estate.

The plot revolves around this conflict, but there's so much more going on! The author gives us scenes in which some of the estate's tenants, as well as the kitchen maids, are featured. This is not a novel dedicated solely to the concerns of the higher classes. Instead, Page presents characters who are united by their common bond as human beings. All of them -- aristocrats and commoners alike -- suffer, all of them love, all of them are real people, wrestling with life's vicissitudes.

The author brings out her messages of social justice and women's rights not only through the character of Ellen Lambert, whose particular situation is poignantly desperate, but through those of Hannah, the kitchen cook, and Tansy, one of the maids, as well as through Wiggins, the Worthington butler. The situation of some the tenant families, such as the Brands and the Tofts, also contribute to the author's message.

The infamous Kerry O'Brien, a dark figure from Cal's turbulent American past, also plays a part in this huge canvas of characters who bring out the emerging themes of the Roaring Twenties.

Other very engaging characters are Zoe and Nigel. Zoe is Julia's sister-in-law; she and Nigel, Julia's brother, have a wonderful marriage, and Zoe is the one Julia turns to for help with her war widows. Zoe is really the sister Julia never had; the two get along very well together, and I wish I could have a friend like either one of them!

I had a hard time liking Diana, one of the Carstairs daughters, at first. She seemed very self-centered, and had gotten involved with someone she totally shouldn't have. However, she grew on me as the novel developed, because she became a more mature, loving person. There was also David, Cal's brother, who is an optimist despite his suffering during the War. I love his irrepressible attitude and gentle humor!

The Countess of Worthington, who is Cal's aunt, is also a remarkable character, although she does not play a very large role in the story. I hated her at first, too, due to her callousness regarding Cal's parents. She ultimately changed toward Cal, and I was saddened to find out how she herself had suffered through a personal tragedy of her own.

There are three other, common-class characters whose tragic stories also play a part in the novel, creating the mystery that Julia and Cal team up to solve. Page treats them with compassion and care, and uses their stories to underscore her main themes.

Ultimately, however, it's Julia and Cal who take center stage in this book. Their relationship is at times funny, poignant, passionate, and so satisfyingly RIGHT, in spite of their differences. They come from two opposing worlds, and yet, are united not only by their love of life, their dedication to the cause of the powerless, but also by their love of beauty, as well as their shared commitment to loyalty and the search for truth.

The backdrop of the novel encompasses not only the beautiful English countryside, with the two estates of Brideswell and Worthington, but also the city of Paris. Here's where Page gives cameos to such important literary figures as Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, as well as Zelda, Scott's wife. Another literary figure briefly featured is the famous diarist, Anais Nin. Although Page does not name her, readers familiar with Nin will be quick to pick up the hints thrown into her description.

I was quite surprised when I read, in an Amazon review the other day, that this novel is supposedly 'a light-hearted romance'. It is anything but. This is a story told in bold, large strokes, one that I would say should become a classic. This is a romance novel that does not limit itself to telling a love story, but also brings in other important themes that make it shine on the literary horizon. This is a novel to make readers of historical fiction in general sit up and take notice. It is a romantically-satisfying novel, as well. And everything is beautifully wrapped up in excellent writing that always keeps the reader's interest.

In short, The Worthington Wife should be read by just about anyone who loves highly compelling fiction. And THAT is my very honest opinion.
   
MY RATING:



Purchase Links







Sharon Page is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels of historical and paranormal romance. She is a two-time, consecutive winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, winner of the Golden Quill and the Colorado Award of Excellence, and a multiple finalist for the Daphne Du Maurier Award. She has twice received the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and is a four-time finalist.

Married with two children, Sharon Page holds an industrial design degree and has worked for many years for a structural engineering firm. When not writing, she enjoys reading with her children, downhill skiing, and mountain biking. Writing romance has long been her dream and she is thrilled to share her stories. 



To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!

http://tlcbooktours.com/2016/11/sharon-page-author-of-the-worthington-wife-on-tour-januaryfebruary-2017/
 

8 comments:

  1. Great commentary Maria. You really seem to get at the essence of this book.

    This sounds very good and seems to be a lot more then a light hearted romance. It sounds like some of the books written by the great Victorian novelists.

    In fact I am currently reading Anthony Trollope's Phineas Fin. In that book there is a woman who wields political power behind the scenes but is limited because of her gender.

    Have a great week!

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks for the compliment!!

      This novel is DEFINITELY a lot more than "a lighthearted romance"! There's quite a bit of depth to it, as it touches on some very important themes.

      I really need to read Trollope. You've written so many excellent reviews of his work, I am really intrigued! And this novel you've mentioned sounds like a great place to start!

      Thanks for the nice comment!! Hope you have a great week, too!! :) :) :)

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  2. Love love this Maria. Thoughtful indepth look at the book, which I has totally misjudged by just looking at the cover.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Verushka!

      Thank you so much!!

      Yes, the cover is indeed very misleading. This is not your typical romance novel. There IS romance, but this book is SO much more than a love story. It's got many important themes included in the plot.

      Thanks for the nice comment!! :) :) :)

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  3. I love the roaring twenties and the setting of the English countryside. The characters do sound engaging, and I'm so happy you loved this book (and just as happy that you put it on my radar ;) ) Though this is not my usual read, I'm pushing myself to read more genres this year; and you make this book sound so wonderful that I will definitely add it to my list. Beautiful review, Maria, and thank you for sharing the awesome giveaway xoxoxo <3 <3 <3

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    1. Hi, Michele!

      This is the first time I read about the Roaring Twenties, and I really enjoyed doing so! Plus, I've always LOVED to read about the English countryside, which I wish I could someday visit. I'm glad you agree that this book is (or will be, for those who haven't yet read it) a great read!

      It's great that you're pushing yourself to read more genres. I need to read more historical fiction myself.

      Thanks for complimenting my review!! Music to my ears!! I greatly enjoy writing book reviews!

      You're very welcome for the giveaway! Thanks for such a thoughtful, lovely comment!! HUGS!!! <3 <3 :) :)

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  4. Wow, that is high praise indeed!
    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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    1. Hi, Heather!

      I think this novel really deserves a LOT of praise! I totally enjoyed reading it, and didn't want it to end!

      You're very welcome for my participation! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!! <3 :)

      Delete

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