Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Miss Armistead Makes her Choice by Heidi Ashworth
I have loved all of Heidi's previous stories (to read my reviews of her other tales, have a look here) and so I was really excited for another story from one of my favourite authors! And I was not disappointed for it was brilliant! It is definitely one of my favourites from this author. Although I would say it is the most serious of her stories so far, it still had plenty of humour! I also believe it is her most romantic novel yet - no wonder it has become such a favourite with me!
"RONE Award Finalist for Historical: Post Medieval and the recipient of InD'tale Magazine's 4.5 star review and coveted Crowned Heart for excellence! Miss Elizabeth Armistead, India born and raised, is happily betrothed to British soldier, Duncan Cruikshank. When she arrives in London a month prior to the wedding she meets Mr. Lloyd-Jones and soon finds that he has invaded even her dreams. Besides Duncan, Mr. Lloyd-Jones is the only man who makes her feel as if he sees past her exceptional beauty to the person within. Her mother would prefer Elizabeth marry the rich and well-connected Mr. Lloyd-Jones while his sister is ecstatic that he is now free to woo Miss Armistead since he has broken off his engagement to the disgraceful Cecily Ponsonby. However, Elizabeth's commitment to the man she promised to marry is at odds with the likes of Mr. Lloyd-Jones who has cried off from one engagement already. How can she betray the man she believes to love her for her virtues so as to indulge her love for a man she fears she cannot trust?
Jaded and betrayed, Mr. Colin Lloyd-Jones and Sir Anthony Crenshaw make a solemn vow to avoid the Marriage Mart for the duration of the London season. When Sir Anthony is called away on a journey in the company of his grandmother's ward, Miss Delacourt, Colin finds he cannot abide by their agreement, especially when his father expects him to squire his sister to society's endless balls and routs. When Colin encounters the breathtakingly beautiful Miss Elizabeth Armistead, he is intrigued by her lack of fascination for his great standing in society, family fortune, and captivating charm. When he learns that she is already betrothed, he feels himself safe from hurt in her company until he discovers the secret she has been guarding, one that threatens to batter his vulnerable heart all past mending."
Let's start with the writing. As it had been a while since I read any of Heidi's tales, I had forgotten how brilliant a writer she is! It was so well written and flowed seamlessly and so was a very easy read. As I mentioned, this was a more serious story compared to her usual but there was still humour and I love her style of humour - comments, often sarcastic, thrown in here and there which just make you laugh out loud! (I never realised how useful a blancmange could be for pinning someone to the ground!)
The story and plot itself was also very strong, and so that along with the brilliant writing meant I was completely drawn into it as I read. It really was most engaging and evoked some very strong emotions and I found it very hard to put down (or rather, it was a test of my patience as I waited for the next chapters to be written and sent to me!)! I just had to find out what was going to happen next and how it was all going to work out!
And now onto the characters. Beginning with Miss Elizabeth Armistead. All her life her astounding angelic beauty has stunned many gentleman into falling in love with her... looks. She has always had to contend with the question of whether all the interest in her was because of who she was inwardly, or whether it was just her outward appearance. And so when the chance comes along to engage herself to a blind man, Duncan, she jumps at it. Surely a blind man cannot be marrying her for her beauty?
I absolutely loved Elizabeth. I really admired her wish to be loved for something other than her beauty. To be loved for herself. She was a really strong and likeable heroine. She has spirit and was very determined... to honour her engagement to Duncan. But then a Mr Colin Lloyd-Jones comes on the scene and unbidden thoughts start entering her mind of this handsome young gentleman...
Mr Colin Lloyd-Jones is suffering from a broken heart and the scandal of a broken engagement after his ex-fiancée turned out to be not so innocent as first thought. His good friend Sir Anthony (whose own story you can read about in Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind) is also nurturing a broken heart and so a pact is made between the two friends to avoid all women (and therefore the chance of another broken heart) through the season. But then who should show up on his doorstep but the beautiful - engaged - Miss Armistead. What could be the harm in befriending her?
What can I say about our perfect hero, Colin. He was just that; perfect! He was wonderful and there were lots of layers to his character; he could be charming and a little flirty, but he was also funny, and he was incredibly caring and considerate, and deep down, he was a true romantic. Adding to this was the bonus that he was a musician, or rather, he can play the piano! This was a lovely addition, especially for a musical lady such as myself!
Together, Colin and Elizabeth are very sweet and it is lovely to see their friendship growing. However it very quickly becomes clear that neither truly want things to stop at just friendship.
The love triangle in this book makes it such a romantic and emotional story. You can't help but feel for Elizabeth and Colin, the former bound by a promise she feels she cannot break, and the latter faced with the knowledge that the woman he truly loves is already engaged to another. The tension between the two as they become closer and closer is electric and the sadness which is always tainting their meetings due to their unfortunate situation is heart-breaking! There are so many beautiful and romantic scenes between these two, as Colin tries and tries to save Elizabeth from a loveless marriage to blind man. But she is determined.
I always love stories which have the majority of the scenes with the hero and heroine both present, which is what happened in this one. There are plenty of stolen moments as the time comes closer and closer for Duncan to return to England and collect his bride-to-be (don't worry he doesn't come on the scene too quickly so there is plenty of time for Colin and Elizabeth before Duncan comes along to ruin everything!) My highly romantic nature was more than satisfied with the romance in this story! The reality of their situation just seemed to make the romance even more intense and every private moment between the two of them more precious!
As well as Colin and Elizabeth, there are some wonderful secondary characters, my favourite of which is most definitely Colin's sister, Analisa. She was such a lovely girl. The relationship between her and Colin was also particularly touching as the strong bond and love they had for each other was so clear.
She too, just like her brother, is a hopeless romantic, and so when she sees how well Colin and Elizabeth are getting on her matching-making skills jump into action, easily dismissing the rather problematic fact that Elizabeth is engaged as a mere trifle! She is a very good match maker and her attempts to get the pair alone and convince Elizabeth of how perfect her brother is was often rather amusing, but also very sweet and usually successful as she was a very good scheming match maker! When she isn't match making, she gets on very well with Elizabeth herself and the relationship between the two is very sweet. Analisa really was such a charming character.
Another character I liked was Mrs Armistead, Elizabeth's mother. She was a very sweet and understanding woman, who really cared about her daughters true feelings, even sometimes subtly persuading her to follow her heart rather than her head.
Elizabeth's aunt, Augusta, however, was a rather different character, who was keen on things being kept proper and correct, and promises being honoured. She was funny though and made me laugh quite a few times with all her strictures about what is and isn't right in the eyes of society!
Another character, Miss Katherine Hale, Elizabeth's friend, was an interesting character. She causes a few problems for poor Elizabeth as there is pretty much a second love triangle as Katherine too starts to realise that Colin is indeed a very charming - and handsome - gentleman.
I have already mentioned Duncan and as I don't want to give anything away, all I will say is that once he comes on the scene he pales in comparison to Colin!
I have already commented on the strong and engaging plot of the this story, but I must give a particular mention to the dramatic and surprising ending! It was really exciting and took a very unexpected turn! I knew something was going to happen, but what does happen I was not expecting!
As I briefly mentioned above, characters from her other stories appear in this story which I liked. After reading all the other tales, it was nice for some of the characters to make another appearance in this story. Heidi does this cross over of characters brilliantly in all her stories. (This is not to say that you need to have read all her other novels first, for you do not. They all work as stand alone stories - but the extra detail with characters you already know is a fun bonus if you have read the others!)
Overall, I really loved this story. It think it may even have become my favourite of this authors novels, for I loved the more serious nature as it resulted in such beautiful and heart-wrenching romance, the most powerful of all her stories in my opinion. But yet there was still some wonderful humour throughout. The characters, and not just the hero and heroine, were also brilliant and very strong, really adding to the story.
And so I leave you in suspense of revealing picnics, enlightening musicale evenings, significant and meaningful paintings and secret - and improper - brooches!
I loved it. Can you tell?
Your affectionate friend,