Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Lady Georgiana Cressington is living a nightmare. Coerced by her father into returning to her childhood home, the young widow becomes a pawn in another of his heartless games. Her return to Summerfield Hall reunites her with the man she once loved before their hearts were shattered by a devastating betrayal.

Sir Robert Garreck, an artist knighted by the queen, lives in a mansion near the family estate Georgiana’s father won in a crooked card game. Rob sets out to regain Summerfield Hall to keep Georgiana’s son from inheriting Rob’s rightful home. However, when he and Georgiana are thrown together, he craves the forbidden lady he never stopped loving. Facing danger and a long-hidden truth, Georgiana and Rob try to claim the powerful love hey once had.

Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth

There are a few historical romance authors whose books set in America are fantastic, but whose voice doesn’t work for books set in England.

I LOVED Kathleen Bittner Roth’s Josette, and listed it as one of my favourite reads of last year, but this story, set in Victorian England is very anachronistic, and despite the formal speak the terminology the characters use is American, not English.

Firstly, I love the Victorian era, so any book with that setting starts off with bonus points from me. It’s an era of so much change with technology and social issues, and such rapidly-changing fashions. Portrait of a Forbidden Lady is set in 1859.

Secondly, I liked the angst at the core of the story. I usually prefer darker stories, and there were elements of that here.

However, then we hit the anachronisms.

I find it astonishing that an aristocratic girl of fifteen would have been sneaking off and conducting a sexual relationship with a young man. I find it astonishing that neither girl nor boy was aware of the social conventions of the time, and the consequences (such as pregnancy and social ruin) of doing such a thing.

I also find it unbelievable that so many high-ranking young ladies in Victorian Britain not only stride around in men’s clothes, but that nobody seems to think there’s anything very strange about it. Both the heroine and her best friend do this, and it was yet another social convention that made these characters seem like they were from the twenty-first, not the nineteenth century.

The female characters in general were supposed to be a bit quirky, but a bunch of important ladies getting together to make – and get drunk on – alcohol while dressed like men was unbelievable to me.

As for the dialogue, there were all the usual Americanisms, as well as one that I’ve been noticing has been creeping into books recently: it’s a beetroot, not a “beet”!

As I said above, I highly recommend Josette, and think the author’s American books are amazing, but if you are familiar with Victorian social conventions, or British English, you might struggle with this one.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

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