In the fallout of her deceased father's financial ruin, Annabelle's prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, the home of her long-estranged aunt and uncle, where a teaching position awaits her. Working for a wage for the first time in her life forces Annabelle to adapt to often unpleasant situations as friendships and roles she's taken for granted are called into question.
Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to eventually purchase land that he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to the lovely Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife's tragic death, Owen begins to dream of a second chance at love.
As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they'd found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.
There is something about Sarah E. Ladd's writing that grips my attention. She knows how to create unforgettable stories with enjoyable characters. I know her stories are Regency novels, but I am drawn to Ladd's ability to tell a story and capture my imagination. Every book she has written has done just that.
The writing is clear and concise. I really enjoy how much attention Ladd takes with her settings. In A Stranger at Fellsworth, she took the time and energy to bring Uncle Edmund Langsby's cottage and the school of Fellsworth to life. I could see the community with the students and the teachers who mingled with the garden and blacksmith shop. Inside of telling me that the time of the year was late summer, Ladd allowed Annabelle, the heroine, to show me by allowing her to wave a painted fan and comment on the stifling heat in the room. The attention to detail drew me into the setting as I observed the key points through Annabelle's perspective.
Annabelle is a woman who I could totally relate to. No I haven't had a bunch of scandals that followed my name, but I understand what it is like to not belong somewhere and wanting to run for the better of oneself. I could feel Annabelle's struggle while she lived at home in London, not wanting to follow the path her brother had laid out for her. Her demise and triumph poured from the pages. While the spiritual life of Annabelle really wasn't important to her, she did find comfort in the prayers of her prayer warrior mother.
Owen Locke, the game warden and the hero, vowed to protect women and not allow another one to die if there was a way to protect them. Ladd used Owen's promise to turn him into a hero for Annabelle who needed protecting. Owen is a loyal man who protects the woods, his daughter, Hannah, and Annabelle. I found him endearing and worth rooting for. What woman doesn't honestly want to be protected? As for spiritual matters, Owen does claim a faith in God, even if he did spend a lot of time questioning his faith after the death of his first wife.
The pace of the novel moved just right. There was a heavy romance thread through the novel, but it is a historical romance novel. The emotions between Annabelle and Owen weren't forced, and I felt they flowed quite naturally from them. As for the plot, it held an element of mystery with poaching and a gunshot early in the book. The story does reflect quite a bit on the poaching element and brings the betrayal to light at the end. To be honest, Ladd did a nice job of weaving in the mystery with the historical romance part. I applauded her for that.
A Stranger at Fellsworth is an original and predictable novel, but I really enjoyed reading it. I can't wait to see what Ladd comes up with next. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good romance and mystery.
I received a complimentary copy of Sarah E. Ladd's A Stranger at Fellsworth from Thomas Nelson publishing, and the opinions stated are all my own.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars