An Independent Woman by Frances Evesham

An Independent Woman by Frances Evesham
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (306 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

With nothing left from her childhood except a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman, some skill with a needle, and the knowledge of a dreadful secret, Philomena escapes her tormentor, Joseph, and the dank fogs of Victorian London, only for a train crash to interrupt her quest for independence and freedom.

Trapped between the upstairs and downstairs occupants of the great country house, Philomena hears whispers of the mysteries and lies that lurk in empty corridors and behind closed doors. Her rescuer, the dangerous, enigmatic Hugh, Lord Thatcham, wrestles with his own demons and makes Philomena’s heart race, but she must fight her passion for she can never marry.

Haunted by her past, Philomena’s only hope of happiness is to confront the evil forces that threaten to destroy her.

Philomena has a secret (a shock to this reader). It overshadows her every effort and decision. Moreover, at the death of her kind, caring guardian, she becomes a target for his ne’er-do-well son. Disguised and without much planning, she runs. The train she’s on from London to Bristol wrecks. At the wreck, Philomena and Lord Thatcham’s lives become entangled with the reader immersed in it all. I felt as if I were there feeling the tensions, the suspense, the uneasiness, and the inching in of love that seems to be hopeless.

Lord Thatcham, a widower with a four-year-old son, takes his responsibilities and his position as a peer of the realm seriously. He sees and understands change as the business and trades people in the country gain wealth and power. He is not a snob like his mother, but he does feel his importance and authority.

He does not intimidate Philomena though. At one point she tells him he is bad-tempered, proud, and thinks others are beneath him. She stands toe to toe with him and speaks her mind, offer her opinions, wins the heart of the precocious four-year-old John, and gains the respect of the servants at the Thatcham estate. She and his sister Selena become friends, but the mother is another thing altogether. Her devious, underhanded ways really do rev up one’s blood pressure.

There is an undercurrent of what really happened to the late Lady Thatcham and her connection with the hated neighbor Arthur Muldron. The coincidence that involves how Muldron came to own the estate next to Thatcham House and how he knows Philomena may be a little bit of the stretch, but the story is so good and so compelling, I couldn’t stop reading until I knew all about it.

What seems like an impossible situation that brings everything to the climax leaves precious little wiggle room for Lord Thatcham and Philomena to have a chance at a happy-ever-after. There are some tense times as two antagonists conspire against Philomena in order to secure their own place in society.

Frances Evesham slips the reader into a time of rapid change in England, uses light and dark character traits, light and dark places, and love that will not be denied to create a page-turning story.

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