The Horseman's Desire is set in 1840's England, a village in Dorset in fact and tells the tale of Emma Turpin, ladies maid, who upon her mistress' death inherits the old lady's house and fortune. Emma, whose beginnings were very humble, decides to use her inheritance for the good of others. She turns the house into a hospital for the poor and needy with the help of the local village doctor and a couple of servants. Every year the travelling circus breathes life into the little village and a dashing Gypsy horseman has caught her eye. When he lures her to his vardo with promises of wild excitement the like of which she has never known, Emma believes she has found the love of her life. But is Edmund Barltemas simply toying with her affections in order to use her in someway? These are the questions Emma is left with until one day, fate brings her horseman to her hospital and Emma learns that Bart has a dark secret that haunts him and threatens to keep them apart.
As a lover of history, I love reading fiction with a historical setting. Romance is always a welcome part of any novel for me, as long as its relevant to the story. Historical romance has never grabbed me but I was willing to read this book when it was offered me, for two reasons, a) because I knew that the author had done her research of the time and the place in which the book is set and b) because I was intrigued by the concept given to me in the blurb.
I started the book, expecting it to be plastered with sex and passion and little else, but as I read page by page, a delightful account of late Georgian England emerged was pleasantly surprised that there was so much more to this story that romance, ripping bodices and heaving breasts and throbbing...well you know, headaches!
The heroine in the story, Emma Turpin has led a sheltered life as the ladies maid. Her backstory tells us that her upbringing as an orphan offered her an the chance of an education care of the charitable Parish Union, a chance that poor young girls living with their families would never have had. So Emma's unfortunate start in life was to be her making. It was the skills she learned as an orphan that would give her the strength to make something of her life and the confidence to fall unconventionally in love. But don't be fooled by this, Emma is not your usual heroine, feisty, feministic and hard to get. Nor is she the wilting stereotypical submissive type of some historical romance authors. Oh no, Emma is a woman with normal desires and passions that echo across the years and down the march of time to now. We can relate to Emma, who, with her advantageous introduction to life and her empathic out look on life and towards others, come across as a human individual who pioneers womanhood in the 19thc.
Edmund Barltemas plays her opposite number. Handsome, charming and desirable, he keeps us wondering...what is his plan? What is his dark secret that in all intents and purposes seems to keep him from fully expressing himself. This theme that runs through the book is what kept me hooked. The relationship that spawns between the two main players in the book is what makes this story such a delight. Endearing in its simplicity, the two of them are drawn together, despite their different circumstances. It is her thoughts and her philosophical resignation that touches me most:
'She knew that she had consigned herselfto a life not dissimilar to that of a soldier's wife... In that way she could justify the sacrifice of her own respectablility in order to have the tiniest piece of him.'
Her own understanding of the similar aspects of the seperate worlds that they inhabit, speaks volumes of societal attitudes to people's circumstances in the world in this period:
'She and Bartlemas, like so many of their age, had been raised in a world which hadn't cared so much if a man and a woman were wed when they lay together. Being base born was, until she had been told otherwise by the parish, simply a matter of being. Now it was a reason of shame..."
Lorraine Hunt Lynn has researched this era thoroughly and the knowledge she has gleaned in all aspects of the book shines through immaculately. From what a circus performer wore and lived in to women's underwear and 19thc poverty laws and social organisation and attitudes, Ms Lynn's research is faultless. The text transports you to time and place with such ease that the reader has no trouble believing that they are in the midst of a Victorian village in Dorset. The romance is there, but it doesn't crowd the narrative unnecessarily and the love between the two main protagonists is soulful in its sincerity.
This is the first in a series of books called The Bartlemas Anthology which stretches across the seas of time from England to the goldmines of Australia.
"...one scandalous union is all it takes to set in motion the most extraordinary tales of love and adventure imaginable"
Lorraine is giving away an e-copy of The Huntsman's Desire in today's competition in the event's page on Facebook. Go here for details to win.
Lorraine's book's can be found on Amazon
For more about the author - http://bartlemasanthology.wordpress.com/