An Untitled Lady by Nicky Penttila is much more than a romance novel. It is the story of how a young woman who has always been taken advantage of tries to find love in an unexpected marriage, against a backdrop of economic turmoil.
Madeline Wetherby was orphaned as an infant and sent away to school. She has been nurtured like a flower by her godfather, an Earl with two sons. Madeline has been raised and trained to believe she will marry the eldest son and become an Earl’s wife. The unexpected demise of the Earl has Madeline traveling from Bath to Manchester, ready to resume the role she was groomed for. But fate has something else in store for her.
Madeline learns the Earl’s family has no idea of her existence. She has to brave some demons of her past, and watch her life turn upside down when a shocking secret is revealed. She ends up marrying the younger son, who is a tradesman counting pennies. Madeline has to live in a cramped house, and fight for the slightest comfort.
Meanwhile, Manchester is going through a lot of change. The workers want better wages and conditions, and the mill owners and trade owners are loathe to let go of their profits. There is threat of an uprising, and many families starve as they are let go from work. Maddie finds herself torn between loyalties, while trying to do something meaningful with her life. Will she able to get closer to her husband, and heal the rift with his family? What of the wounds from her own past.
An Untitled Lady surprisingly turned out to be much more complex than I had thought. There is a lot happening here, and the author deals with it effortlessly. Politics and heartbreak, class distinction and familial bonds, they are all a part of Madeline’s life as she struggles to make a place for herself in a changing world, while still living like the Lady she was raised to be.
A must read for all book lovers.