Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Lady of a Thousand Treasures is a gothic novel of historical fiction with both mystery and romance elements. Byrd has written a novel that hews to its Victorian era period with historical accuracy, including the religious elements of the period which many readers may not be expecting. Elinor Sheffield is left in a terrible situation upon her father's death. Her aging uncle, who had partnered with her father in their fine arts evaluation services, has early dementia, and is forgetting to pay important invoices due, like those for household services. And a long time client, Baron Lydney, father of a young man, Harry Lydney, on whom Elinor had pinned romantic hopes, has died and left Elinor the trustee in charge of determining the fate of his impressive collection, potentially at the expense of his surviving son, Harry, who he blames for the death of his older son, Arthur. Harry had virtually disappeared in recent times from Elinor's life, after implying romantic interest. When he returns he is in the company of a beautiful young Italian woman and her mother. Is he as fickle and feckless as his father's will implies? What will Elinor decide and how will it impact the struggling Sheffield Brothers business? With all the gender constraints of the day, Elinor struggles to right the business, relying on a Mr. Clarkson, who may not be quite what he seems. Pressures, bills, debt collectors mount and Elinor fears for her uncle, her housekeeper and herself, as the prospect of debtors' prison becomes increasingly real to her.
I'm not usually a romance reader but this book offered a rich historical world and a protagonist with perseverance and intelligence about whose life I enjoyed reading. I like the inclusion of the Arts and Crafts and Pre-Raphaelite set, and enjoyed the intrigues of the art and antiquities dealers of the day. While I could wholly believe that Harry was not aware of Elinor's dire financial straits, I found I didn't always like him or feel he deserved Elinor. I also question how likely it would be that he would still marry her given her having been taken into a debtor situation, as it seems like it would be an insurmountable social barrier for his class, when he was already marrying down. The mystery aspect of the story, both with artifacts and with Harry himself, kept the reader engaged with twists and unexpected turns, however. All in all, an enjoyable read.
I listened to the audiobook edition of this novel for this review. Narrator Elizabeth Jasicki did an excellent job voicing all the characters and pacing the suspense aspects of the story.
I received a paper and Digital Review Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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