"EDENBROOKE," by Julianne Donaldson, Shadow Mountain, $15.99, 272 pages (f)
"Edenbrooke" is a Regency-era love story for those who like a well-crafted yet clean romance novel.
Labeled "A Proper Romance," "Edenbrooke" is the first of a new brand of romance novel by publisher Shadow Mountain, an imprint of Deseret Book, that includes clean love stories — without unnecessary bedroom scenes, sexual themes or bursting bodices.
When 17-year-old Marianne Daventry is invited by her sister to spend the summer at Edenbrooke, the country estate of a family friend, she is ecstatic to leave the boredom of Bath, England, with its unwanted suitor with a penchant for bad poetry and her grandmother's critical eye.
Her fraternal twin, Cecily, has been enjoying life in London and plans to snag the estate's heir, while Marianne is looking forward to seeing her sister again and enjoying the countryside.
However, there's a disastrous run-in with a highwayman while en route to Edenbrooke. Later at the inn where Marianne, her upset maid and the wounded driver stop for the night, Marianne meets Phillip, to whom she gives a piece of her mind when he refers to others for assistance. What seems like a harmless conversation later that evening turns into the beginning of a surprising friendship.
Through some unexpected events, concealed identities and her desire to be loyal to her sister, Marianne tries to rein in her potentially traitorous heart that is still healing from the fracturing of her family after her mother's death more than a year ago, while she and her sister went to stay with different relatives and their father went to France.
However, Marianne, who recognizes her lack of experience in flirting and must try to be a lady to please her grandmother, begins to learn more what love is — and isn't — especially when it's hiding in plain sight.
Utah author Julianne Donaldson has created a delightful story that shows how friendship can blossom unnoticed into love, along with all the twists and turns that romance can take if one dares to take that road.
Marianne, who sees herself as someone who doesn't have the most attractive figure and loves the outdoors more than is acceptable, is a very relatable character who also learns a thing or two about being true to herself. Even with the story's potential for heartbreak and disappointment, Donaldson keeps the tone light.
"Edenbrooke" lives up to the "A Proper Romance" brand with a love story devoid of questionable scenes and is a book that's difficult to put down.