A Heart’s Rebellion (Revell), the second in the “London Encounters” series by Ruth Axtell, is a Regency-era romance set in the city of London. It follows the story of Jessamine Barry as she spends her first season in London and struggles to overcome the heartbreak of her youth.
Jessamine Barry, a vicar’s daughter from a small village in the country, is staying with her benevolent godmother Lady Beasinger for the season. Her best friend, Megan Phillips, has accompanied her. Still heartbroken and saddened over the rejection of Rees Phillips – Megan’s older brother – she tries to find solace in her new surroundings. Everywhere she turns, however, she is reminded of his neutral feelings and her unrequited love. While out with their older godmother, who is less in touch with society now than in her prime, Jessamine and Megan struggle to make the acquaintance of any eligible young men. It seems tha
t dinner parties and card games with Lady Beasinger’s associates are not the best place to make the proper social connections – until the girls meet Lancelot Marfleet.
Lancelot Marfleet, a vicar (preacher), has recently returned from a missionary voyage to India. A quiet and humble man, he is not concerned with socially expected obligations. However, as a Baronet’s youngest son, his parents are pushing him to marry and produce an heir, due to his brother’s current lack of children. After the two young ladies amuse and spark his interest, they soon become invited to more social gatherings.
When news of Rees returning to town with his new French wife reaches Jess, it makes her aloneness all the more real. With her newfound social status, Jess turns to more frivolous pursuits, determining to move past her small-village image. She proceeds to alter her dress to fit the fashion of the times, which happens to be immodest for a young lady of her character. As a result, her flirtatious manner attracts the attention of several “gentlemen” of questionable character.
The social scene of London consists of an endless array of dinner parties and balls – anyone who’s anyone is to be invited. Lancelot’s character continually finds himself at odds with Jess over matters of propriety. This serves to make her weary of him. She won’t admit that she’s fond of his interest in botany or his quiet manner because they remind her of her father. And that’s the last kind of man she’d be interested in. Jess is faced with circumstances and decisions which cause her to question her actions and the person she’s become.
Axtell includes beautiful detail of the era in London, from the dinner parties, dances, ball gowns, fashionable buggy rides in parks, and visits to gardens. Botany is an uncommon and refreshing element in this novel, complete with a visit to the famed royal Kew Gardens.
Axtell includes snippets about current practices of the Anglican Church of England – and then-radical evangelical tendencies of the Baptists and Methodists. One example is the idea of sending evangelists and missionaries to foreign lands. This added an interesting historical perspective to the growth of Christianity during that time.
At the opening of the story, Jess is already brokenhearted and determined to guard her heart from anyone else. As the story unfolds, the reader glimpses small bits of compatibility between Jess and her eventual hero. Her character faces challenges and must learn to rely on others to help her overcome them. Ultimately, the characters experience that real love forgives as Christ forgave, and trusting your heart and future to God is the best thing to do.
Learn more about Ruth Axtell at her website here.
Read this review on Family Fiction here.
Note: thanks to Revell for a complimentary advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.