Eleanor Sheffield is an identifier of antiquities, trained by her father and her uncle. Since the death of her father and the continuing decline of her uncle's mental state, Eleanor finds herself responsible for keeping her humble household afloat. In addition to that she has been tasked by her late father's loyal client, Lord Lydney, upon the recent occurrence of his death to deliberate over the fate of his treasures, whether they will go to a museum or go to his heir and only living son, Harry--who broke Eleanor's heart.
Eleanor must rely on her faith to make her decision and keep her family's business above water, valuable pieces go missing, some reappear, while her uncle's business associate Mr. Clarkson presses his suit. Eleanor struggles to be taken seriously in a man's world, and she had few friends that she can rely on. Also, Harry seems interested in rekindling their romance, but does he really care for her, or does he have ulterior motives?
Spellbinding. I was swept into this book from the first page, and didn't want to put it down. Ms. Byrd weaves a captivating tale of mystery, high stakes, romance, faith, and misdirection. I loved how the author's skilled use of language, through structure and vocabulary brought Eleanor's Victorian world to life, the dialog is excellently crafted, fitting for the time period, yet by no means stiff. This book was remarkably well researched, and I loved how it showed me a side of upper class society that I had never thought of very deeply, and how their collections showed off their taste, standing, and status.
Eleanor is a relatable heroine, flawed, vulnerable, strong, compassionate, honest, and honorable. She is determined to make the best of the situation handed to her, and to represent her father and uncle's business well. She takes her duty seriously, and her deep knowledge of antiquities help her to test what rings true and what is false. I liked how she visits the ladies in prison, praying with them, and treating them as equals. She is a faithful friend, and talented appraiser.
There are so many well built characters, and even though I didn't like them all, I could definitely picture them in my mind's eye, like Harry, Marguerite, Orchie, Alice, Mrs. Denholm, the ladies in the prison, Uncle Lewis, and more. There was so much going on in the book, one mystery after another, and just when it seemed that there was finally someone she could trust, their character was again thrown into question.
I liked the way that snapshots of Harry and Eleanor's past was shown, so that I could see the significance of little gestures, which made the story richer and more moving as a whole. As well as the way that the stories behind many of the pieces was woven into the fabric of the story, showing the love that the collectors and acquisitioners had for their passion.
Overall, a well crafted novel, that was hard to put down, and brimming with intrigue, and tension filled scenes. Very well researched, with a strong heroine, definitely worth the read, and perfect for fans of Victorian Era reads! I could say so much more, but I don't want to give any surprises away.
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