This is one of my favorite of Julie Klassen's books so far. I have read all but 2 or 3 of them I believe and I did really enjoy this one. If you have read her books then you know that she doesn't write about the perfect respectable character. She writes about characters who have made choices that leave them as outcasts in society, or characters who try to hide that they are outcasts. With characters found in those certain situations, Klassen shows the reader that there is redemption, that there are good people who are willing to help and allow a person who has faltered to be healed and make restitution and be able to know that no one is perfect and everyone is in need of mercy and love.
Sophie Dupont is one such character. She finds herself pregnant and the father has left England to go paint in Italy. Definitely not a subject matter that I would recommend young readers to read but for mature readers. That being said there are no explicit sex scenes, some kissing and a scene with a married couple in the same room while the mother is nursing and I don't think there were any swear words(I read it a couple days ago so can't remember completely but I think if there were, especially more than just a couple mild ones I would remember.)
Stephen Dupont is a second son on leave for a couple weeks from the military and is searching for his older brother Wesley so he can come home and manage the estate. Stephen arrives at the Devon coast hoping to find Wesley painting only to come upon Sophie. He learns of her condition and his brother's part in it. Sophie has received a note from Wesley saying he is bound to Italy in search of a new muse for his paintings and that he doesn't know when he will return. Sophie is devastated. She truly believed that Wesley loved her and was going to marry her yet he has now left without proposing and without knowing he is to be a father.
Stephen is all things good and duty bound and salvaging what his brother has left behind. Once again he is to come to the rescue and save Sophie from any embarrassment and to save this child from a life of being an outcast. Stephen has a secret(or two) though that he can't tell Sophie...he has carried a miniature portrait of her for the last year when he found it in a crate of paintings Wesley had sent home. He can't believe that he has come across her and that he can be the one to marry her. He has promised her that marriage will be platonic and that she probably will be a widow within the next few months as he is returning to the war with Napoleon. Sophie doesn't know what to think about Stephen's offer of marriage. Is he the monster his brother painted him to be, or could he truly be the one to save her and allow her child to live a normal life and not as an outcast. What will happen when Wesley returns and finds her married to his brother? What will happen if she doesn't marry Stephen and Wesley never returns?
Sophie agrees to the marriage and finds herself the new bride of Captain Stephen Overtree. There are ups and downs in her life as she travels to let her father know as well as traveling to meet the Overtree family and to create a life living with her new husband's family. This is a pretty long and in depth novel, we're talking 452 pages long. Plenty of time for twists and turns and mystery and heartache and decisions to be made. I loved reading about Sophie, discovering who she is, what lead her to all the choices she made as well as how she took responsibility for those choices even though it wasn't always easy. Stephen was complex and brooding and not at all what Sophie had imagined or what his brother Wesley had described.
The two come to learn more about each other, about their dreams and fears and hopes and their pasts. They have many roadblocks in their way. Yes, one of those roadblocks being Wesley. Yes he does return and yes he causes some major problems. I loved certain characters and liked some characters and definitely did not like other characters. Yes I'm being vague, but hey if I said which characters are which it might taint your opinion or it might give away what happens.
I know some readers ask about why Julie Klassen continues to write about "fallen" women and their circumstances. I am a clean reads lover, I enjoy Christian fiction and I love regency. I love reading books that show the good characters who don't make any big mistakes and follow the dictates of society and religion in not having any relations before marriage. Yet, I do enjoy reading about redemption and the ability to fix what was broken, or fix a mistake. Tell me who in life has never made a mistake that they wish they could go back and fix, that they wish they could have a do over and never make that mistake in the first place. There is not one and so reading these stories about characters who have to rely on a greater power (God) and trusting and hoping that redemption is possible that all humans can work through any mistake with mercy and love and can move forward in life and relationships.
So if you don't want to read about a person who has made a mistake and who is learning to fix it and move forward then this book isn't for you. But if you enjoy reading about a character who is portrayed as real and aching and growing then I recommend this book for you.
My only complaint is that I felt the ending was almost drawn out too much. Maybe because after everything was resolved and I felt that it was at a good point to finish up it kept going. Not a huge complaint from me though, you might feel completely different and want it to go longer. My personal feelings. I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up.