This book was recently reviewed by Malin and was sufficient to induce me to get it.
Content warnings: deaths of spouses, children, parents. Suicide. Miscarriages. One instance of really really on the line consent stuff.
Plot: Cassandra is jilted by fiance. Her father arranges for Joshua, a friend and business magnate to marry her instead, because only married women can inherit property (through their husbands, since they didn’t legally exist as distinct from their husbands) to make sure she can keep the property in the family in case of her father’s death. So the marriage is in name only for legal reasons and they part ways immediately after, never to see each other again. And then the father dies literally a month later. Fast forward two years, our newlyweds haven’t seen each other since their rushed marriage and haven’t communicated beyond a few perfunctory letters here and there that have done nothing to engender positive mutual feelings. Her sister Lucy is of an age to come out and is losing her damn mind being cooped up in the country house (and from all the death and stuff), so despite Joshua’s insistence that Cassandra remain on the property she married to keep, she heads to London to try and set up some kind of coming out for her sister, so that she can get herself a less shitty husband. He was supposed to be out of town, but of course, he wasn’t, and as always, shenanigans ensue.
There is a LOT of plot in this story. This barely even scratches the surface of what’s going on, but Vincy does an excellent job of balancing it all in a way that never leaves the reader overwhelmed. Information is provided at exactly the right time, and we’re never slowed down by lengthy exposition.
Cassandra is the granddaughter of a Duke and has all the devotion to duty and propriety associated with the aristocracy. Joshua was born into the aristocracy but his garbage father had actually already been married when he married Josh’s mom, so their marriage was annulled and and Josh and his two brothers were chucked into the street with yesterday’s trash while his mom stole their sister (since mothers didn’t have any legal claim to their children, this would have been kidnapping and also the literal only way for them to stay together if the father objects) and disappeared forever. You might say that Josh has a chip on his shoulder about the upper class. This creates a perfect tension between Cassandra and Joshua. Because they are essentially each other’s kryptonite, they start forcing one another out of their complacency from the moment they meet again.
The story gets really dark at times, but is saved from being maudlin by the sharp, witty dialogue and slapstick humor which should seem out of place but ends up fitting perfectly.
I say this now and again, but just because a novel is set in a time in history where certain injustices exist that we don’t like doesn’t mean we should ignore them. It makes for a more interesting story when its rooted in truth. This novel does not ignore or downplay the injustices of impoverished children dying of disease. Of the ignorance of the time on things like waterborne disease. The systemic discrimination against women. The fact that people of colour existed. This book is not *about* any of these issues, but it does not ignore the realities of the time, that there have always been compassionate people and heartless people.
This is the first book by Vincy and it is a great start. I’ve already placed a hold on her second and look forward to reading more from her. I’d be particularly jacked if she wrote the story of the Das family. The little glimpse of how they came to live in England was enough to get me 5-year-old cranky for more.