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· Title: Isabelle and Alexander (Proper Romance Victorian)
· Author: Rebecca Anderson
· Genre: Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction, Victorian Romance
· Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing (May 4, 2021)
· Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages
Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father's coal mines with Alexander Osgood's prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander's wife. However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country.
Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick. Sensing his wife's unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn't bring them any closer.
While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle's opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.
· "Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them."— Library Journal
· "Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England."— Foreword Reviews
· "Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson's debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart."— Booklist
High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.
Isabelle waited eagerly for Alexander to come home that evening. She repented her decision to wait for him to begin a dialogue. For once, she had something interesting she could
talk about with him. Maybe if she started a conversation about the Kenworthy family, he would have impressions to add. It had been such a lovely day, full of discourse and kindness and laughter. She could bring that to this house as well.
As he entered, she smiled and said, “Welcome home.” She held out her hand, but instead of clasping her fingers, he handed her his hat. Before she could say more, he responded with a dismissive snort.
“Home. I suppose.” He shook his head and shed his coat. “My real home is Wellsgate.” He placed his coat on a chair and walked on.
Isabelle felt her breath catch in her throat. This was not his true home. And after the omitted wedding trip, he had never offered another opportunity to visit his country home.
“This entire city is cramped. Sooty. Dark.” He wiped his hand in front of his face as if he could make the place disappear.
She eyed the closed draperies on the windows. Noted. Tomorrow she’d have them open when he arrived home. And she would have a word with the housekeeper about sootiness. Whatever that meant.
He led the way to the dining room, muttering about chill and grit. All thought of summoning the Kenworthy family’s memories into the room swept out of Isabelle’s mind. Any word she might have added would feel foreign and out of place here.
These thoughts led Isabelle into a whirlpool of dark musings. As dinner was served, she stared, dismayed, at her plate and allowed herself to sink into this blue gloom. Was this to be her daily experience? Disappointment and silence? Imagining her next letter to Edwin, she blushed from her neck to her hairline as she thought of actually putting on paper any of the thoughts currently entertained.
Alexander’s voice shocked her out of her reverie. “Is that acceptable?”
She had not the slightest notion of what he was asking her. Acceptable? Was what acceptable? And why was he asking? For permission? Unlikely. But apparently he’d been speaking to her as she was harboring—no, encouraging—thoughts of unkindness and disappointment.
“Pardon?” It was the best she could do.
“A visit to Wellsgate?” What was that look on his face? He didn’t appear angry at her inattention, although he had every right to be. Discomfort, surely. Did he think she would disapprove? Her stomach roiled, and her face continued to flame.
“A visit to Wellsgate sounds lovely,” she said, managing to keep her voice even.
He nodded. “I will make arrangements. Assuming all goes to plan, let us say Tuesday.”
Let us say Tuesday? What did that mean? “Tuesday?”
He looked at her, confusion all over his face. “Yes. We go to Wellsgate. Tuesday next.” He spoke slowly. He must have thought her simple.
Her face flamed again, both in reaction to that thought and to the inclusion in the invitation. We go, he’d said. She was expected. Invited.
“At what hour?” she asked.
“Is your schedule so full?” His mouth formed the hint of a smile, and his eyes flickered to her face, but she could not decide if he was being friendly or condescending.
Either way, she could hardly ignore a direct question. “I have a commitment Tuesday morning. I am unscheduled after tea.”
He shook his head. “No. We leave early.”
Nodding as if they had reached an accord, he turned back to his food.
She silently chided herself for her inability to speak up. After waiting so long for him to engage her in a conversation, she’d utterly failed to reciprocate. She would have to cancel what would only be her second visit with the Kenworthy family and would need to make an excuse. Her husband planned to visit Wellsgate. He planned to take her along. She was going to visit the country home he compared this house to and against which this house was always lacking. She was grateful. But was it proper to thank him? How was one to manage an invitation to travel with one’s husband?
Isabelle squeezed her hands together beneath the table and watched Alexander take another bite of fish. And now she found herself in the far-too-familiar and uncomfortable place of scanning her mind to come up with anything to say. He’d mentioned Wellsgate, and it was now her turn to make a comment. Somehow the Kenworthy family visit no longer seemed a valid discussion point. She felt silly assuming that Alexander would care about the time she’d spent with them. After all, it could not affect him.
She considered and dismissed several topics in quick succession. Nothing that entered her mind could possibly spin into a dialogue. What news had she heard that might interest him? She could think only of discussing market fish with Mrs. Burns, and now the fish was here, half consumed, and not worthy of conversation.
Once again, Isabelle sighed in defeat and ate her food in silence.
(Chapter 4, Pages 25-28)