“I can’t be like you, forever in her shadow, waiting for a smile. I want something else,”
This was a book I pulled out of a cupboard at home and it piqued my interest. Victoriana is always fascinating and I was ready to give this a go. I didn’t look into any particular background details regarding the story so perhaps this inhibited me. However, perhaps it was for the best in this case.
The historical detail regarding photography was interesting and the background detail was well developed. In this instance, Goodwin has evidently researched her topic and her passion for history shines through. I was looking forward to reading about a strong female protagonist whose love of unladylike photography sets her apart from the twittering maidens in the society which she inhabits.
However, when reading a romance novel it usually helps if you root for the romance plot arc. While the romance between Charlotte and Bay Middleton is historically accurate, the way it was represented just irritated me. He is painted as some sort of Adonis character but instead he is incredibly unlikeable and treats the women around him with utter indifference unless he wanted something from them. Even Charlotte had the beginnings of a characterization on her own terms but whenever the story placed her with Bay she becomes a quivering mess who worships the ground he walks on.
The character of Caspar, the American photographer, was more interesting than Bay, from a narrative perspective anyway. However, he becomes background noise whenever Bay is there and it’s a pity because at least Caspar was a memorable character with a believable personality.
One of the main narrative arcs is a romance between Bay and the Austrian empress Elisabeth. While this comes across as a game of historical narrative join the dots, the story also tries to portray Elisabeth as a 19th century Princess Diana figure who wants to be loved on her own terms despite her unhappy marriage borne out of dynastic necessity. I didn’t really care about the romance between Bay and Elisabeth, however.
While this book was by no means perfect it may satisfy your cravings for Victoriana until you find something better. The book did encourage me to research the historically accurate characters mentioned in the story itself, however I don’t have a particularly strong desire to revisit this book anytime soon.
MY RATING: *** / *****