The Companion of Lady Holmeshire Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
In this Jane Austen-style sweet romance, a foundling girl, Emma Carrington, was raised and sent to work as a servant girl for The Countess of Holmeshire. The widowed and unconventional Countess chose her as her companion and sent her off for finishing. She was dragged along into snobbish, aristocratic Victorian society where she received a cold reception at tea and dinners - if she was allowed to accompany her mistress at all.
Emma had eyes for the young Earl of Holmeshire, but he was engaged by arrangement to a lovely London lady, Genevieve, and Emma was out of his class. Humorous tribulations attend a banned romance of servants downstairs as we follow Emma and the Holmeshires from a stone fortress to a Victorian village and then into fabulous London mansions. Men in tatters follow Emma, and strange gentlemen spy on Genevieve. Answers to this mystery unfold at a Midsummer Night's Dream Ball. Listeners express great surprise at the revelation of the last few minutes!
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This part of the story gave rise to the place in which the entire piece was framed. A romantic fantasy. Once I cottoned to that, things became a great deal more clear. My expectations of where the story fit and how Debra played with the characteristics of the genre now made more sense to me. We have a piece that is wrapped up in the era, the end of the Georgian, the beginning of the Victorian, and we see a transition of social mores that leave what was self centered about the Regency, into the Evangelical Socialism of the Victorian.
One of the subplots shows how the hero interacts with what we learn more of in the Victorian Era. We also then have our heroine, from where our book receives its title. Lady Holmeshire's companion is Emma. Left on a doorstep and evolved from orphan to lady's maid before being vaulted into the drawing room as companion to a Countess. Again the fantasy element make themselves known, or we have Ella, brought forth from the Cinders into a place where she can attend the Prince's Bride Finding Ball.
Though there are elements that don't ring true, and a mystery trio looking into our Heroine, all comes together in the end to resolve the story. Debra brings everything to a satisfying conclusion, and we have our heroes made happy and our villains left not so happy. A first effort worth your time if a light Victorian Romance is what you are in the mood for.
If the plot rambled, I didn't notice it. I just enjoyed reading it. I was conscious of a sense of disappointment when I realized I had read most of the book and it was going to be over soon. The story contained elements of gentle humor which I found very enjoyable. Words like "charming" and "delightful" came to mind as I pondered my review.
I only realized after I had finished that the supposed main character was not the center of attention the whole time. I thought this was a nice change from endless introspection and brooding and misunderstandings between hero/heroine. I enjoyed the exploration of the other characters and it gave the story more depth than I expected from what I thought was going to be a period romance.
The wrap-up did seem somewhat rushed and stretched my credibility a bit, perhaps, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story. I was proved right in my initial suspicion of one plot element, but others did actually take me by surprise. I didn't find the social aspects anachronistic at all, and I absolutely loved Genny.
Quibbles and Nitpicks:
The word "courtesan" is not at all correct in its context (but did provide a source of unintended amusement).
The name of the main character is misspelled near the end, and I do have to wonder if the misspelling is closer to the author's intended spelling of the full name with two L's and an E.
The capitalization seemed a bit odd, with words like Nanny, Sitting Room, Fourteenth Century Stone, and the like, but again, I don't read fiction of this era or set in this era very often, so I can't say whether it's appropriate for the time or not.
All in all, this was a nice change and a thoroughly pleasant read.
Debra Brown provided the reader with such rich detail of Victorian London. I was able to picture it in my mind so easily. The lovely gowns, the stately homes and, also, the utter desolation of the poor. At the heart of this book is the underlying descrimination of the lower and working classes of England. Ms. Brown captured, beautifully, the extreme cattiness of the London Ton. To all appearances Emma is a lowly servant in the eyes of many that has intruded on their way of life. She is not welcomed in their presence. The nobility treat her as an unwanted outcast. However, she lifts her chin proudly to earn her place.
Ms. Brown really captured the awful living conditions of the the extreme poor of London. I don't know how accurate it is of high-born nobility to take on such philanthropic work; but it described how some of the most destitute lived in London. In particular, Lady Genevieve's transformation from a spoiled, high-born aristocrat to a charitable Lady really emphasized the extreme poverty that existed in London. Genevieve witnessed a young mother with her new-born son freezing on the streets of London and that experience changed her life. I loved the idea of such transformation but I'm not sure if that truly existed among the nobility. However, Ms. Brown gives me hope.
I really enjoyed this book; however, I will say that the ending was a little too perfect. A little too happily ever after. Please don't get me wrong - I love a happy ending! But this one was a little too perfect. After reading The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, I'm a new fan of Debra Brown. I look forward to her new works.