Her secret cloaks her in isolation and loneliness. His secret traps him in a life that is not his own.
Darbury, England, 1819
Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years.
Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world. He’ll never be free to fall in love.
When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long kept?
About the Author
Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing family and spunky golden retriever. Visit her online at SarahLadd.com; Facebook: SarahLaddAuthor; Twitter: @SarahLaddAuthor.
Read an Excerpt
A Lady at Willowgrove Hall
By Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Sarah E. Ladd
All rights reserved.
Blacksmith's Cottage at Aradelle Park Detham, England, 1814
Is it always a sin to tell a lie?
Sixteen-year-old Cecily Faire rolled over to glance at Leah, who slumbered in the narrow bed they shared. A worn, wool blanket was tucked tightly under her sister's chin, and her long, auburn braid lay limply against the pillow.
For weeks she had kept a secret from her sister. Her dearest friend. Her closest confidante.
Cecily swallowed the emotion that welled within her.
Each little lie that she had told haunted her.
But had there been any alternative? Secrecy was imperative.
Cecily relaxed her head against her own pillow and stared at the rough, wooden beams running the length of their bedchamber and struggled to make out their uneven shape in the night's shifting darkness. Outside their room's only window, unremitting rain battered her family's modest cottage, clattering against the thatched roof and disturbing the shutters.
Normally, she did not mind a rainy night. The weather changed without warning on the moors. She had grown accustomed to the peculiar groans and whispering creaks conjured by harsh winds. But tonight, the uneven cadence made it difficult for her to hear the single sound that mattered above all.
The chime of her father's clock.
How clearly her mind's eye could recall the timepiece's ivory face, golden hands, and intricate carvings of vines and leaves. It was by far the most elegant piece in their home. It sat in the parlor, just one floor below, marking each passing hour.
Unable to remain still another moment, Cecily clamped her teeth over her lower lip, held her breath as she pushed the thin covers away, and sat up, careful not to wake Leah.
Even as Cecily's heart trembled in anticipation, Leah's prior warning echoed like a boisterous raven, screeching its unpleasant song from the brush. Only two days past, Leah had discovered Cecily and Andrew arm in arm under the lacy shadows of the apple trees in Aradelle's south orchard.
You would be wise to stay away from Andrew Moreton. Her sister's stern voice had quivered with anger as she grabbed Cecily by her work-worn hand and dragged her back to their cottage. He is not good for you. People in his position are not what they seem. Any relationship with him will only bring about your ruin.
Cecily swiped her unruly hair away from her face, the very memory of the words igniting agitation.
What did Leah know of love? Of passion?
Cecily may only be sixteen years of age, but she knew well her heart.
Andrew Moreton loved her. He wanted to marry her. Had he not said those very words? And he would be waiting for her at the midnight hour, just down the lane from their cottage gate, where the road bent and the copse of hawthorn trees gave way to open moorland.
A wave of excitement pulsed through her at the very thought of Andrew's broad shoulders. His dark-brown eyes. The manner in which his cheek dimpled with his carefree, impulsive smiles and the affectionate warmth in his expression when he looked at her.
Perhaps Leah would feel differently if she knew what it was like to be in love.
Tonight she and Andrew would travel by carriage northward to Scotland where they would marry. She knew no other details, but Andrew had assured her that he had made the necessary arrangements. Even though he was only seventeen, he knew people. Powerful people.
Her hands shook so that she could barely pull her nightdress over her head. She had remained fully clothed beneath in her best gown of straw-colored muslin in anticipation of her journey. She inched her way over to the chair next to the casement window. As she slipped on her half boots and tugged at the laces, she glanced to the garden below. The shrubbery bowed and swayed in a dance with the wind and raindrops. Cecily's hold on the laces slacked as she thought of how her mother, dead seven years now, would disapprove of the garden's wild state. Cecily had tried to tend it in a manner in which her mother would have been pleased, but with all of her other chores, time had slipped by.
But once she was Mrs. Andrew Moreton, she would have no chores. No cares.
She snapped the laces tight.
Andrew had promised her as much.
He had whispered in her ear the promise of love and security, of freedom from worry and want.
She turned back to Leah. The moon's intermittent light now slanted over her twin's slight figure, glinting on the long, red hair. Only twelve minutes her senior, they were identical in so many ways. Looking at her was like beholding a living, breathing looking glass, from her straight nose to the smattering of freckles on her cheeks.
But whereas Leah was far too cautious to follow the demands of her heart, Cecily was not.
One day Leah would forgive her for stealing away in the dark of night. Once she married the heir of Aradelle Park, their worries would cease. No longer would she be merely the daughter of the man who worked the estate's forge and did odd jobs in the village. For when Cecily returned from Scotland, she would be a lady. The scandal would pass, and Andrew's family would accept her as one of their own. Then she would send for Leah. And the nightmare they lived would end.
The familiar melody was soft at first, but it seemed to grow louder, like a beacon summoning her. Imploring her to move quickly. It taunted her, urging that if she did not hurry, she might awaken, and her cherished fairy tale would be no more than a tragic dream of what might have been.
Lightning flashed in the tiny room, and at the brightness, Leah stirred. If Cecily was going to leave, now was the time.
With her boots now secured, she stood, crossed the room, and pulled her packed valise from the corner where she had hidden it behind a chest. She opened a small box on the dresser and pulled out a folded piece of paper. At the top she had carefully written her sister's name in her finest handwriting.
Everyone would wonder where she had gone. Someone needed to know.
She propped the folded letter on the bureau where Leah would be sure to see it.
A thrill surged through her, and she paused to look around the room that had been hers all her life. Even in the dark she could make out the low bed. The leaning wardrobe in the corner. The battered, painted chest beneath the window.
She turned to leave but stopped as her eye caught on a simple coral necklace next to where she had placed the letter. It had been their mother's, and it was the only piece of jewelry that remained in their possession. Their father had sold everything else, but somehow this trinket had escaped his greedy eye. At the sight of it, her throat tightened and her vision grew misty.
Their mother had always wanted more for them. More than they would receive as the daughters of a blacksmith.
Would her mother approve of her decision to run away from everything for a chance at a better life?
Cecily had no one to turn to for guidance.
She had to trust her instincts.
She snatched the piece of jewelry, tucked it in her bodice, glanced back at her sleeping sister, and quitted the room.
The corridor was quiet, save for the steady fall of rain. It was too quiet—normally, their father's snores would fill the modest cottage. She tried not to let that fact dissuade her as she descended the steps, avoiding the spaces that would groan under her weight.
With every step she should be feeling freer. Lighter.
But at the foot of the staircase, doubt washed over her. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck prickled.
Cecily fought the ominous suspicion and strained to hear the night sounds, but the erratic beating of her heart drowned out all other noises. Another flash of lightning sliced through the darkness, lancing her already taut nerves. The sooner she was free of this cottage, and the memories it held captive, the better she would be.
She hurried through the kitchen and out the door to the overgrown garden. She hastened amid the neglected lavender, roses, and foxglove. The hedges of overrun hawthorn and elderberry, which once had been a place of play, now seemed dangerous and foreboding. Ahead of her was the wooden gate. Only a few more steps.
Was that thunder?
No. She took another step.
A shout. One heavy with Irish brogue, rough and gritty like a growl.
It was alarm, pure and violent, that pushed her farther into the unkempt garden. The blood raced through her ears, and try as she might to make out words, the wind muddled them. She dropped her valise and ran toward the gate. The overgrown shrubbery grabbed at her skirt, and she struggled to maintain her balance as her boots sank in the thick mud. It was as if the very ground were trying to keep her captive.
Her father had discovered their plan.
It could be the only explanation.
She skidded to a stop by the gate and rounded the corner. There stood her father, towering over Andrew and appearing more like a hulking monster than a mortal man.
"Stop, Father!" Cecily squealed, lunging forward and grabbing his thick arm. "Stop!"
But with one swoop of his forearm, Joseph Faire knocked Cecily to the side, nearly sending her to the soggy ground. When she gained her balance, she swiped her drenched hair from her face. The weak light from the lantern at her father's feet flickered in hard angles on his wet face, his eyes mere slits.
Fearing more for Andrew's safety than her own, she scrambled back to her father in an attempt to distract him, but he would not be deterred. His massive hands were fixed on Andrew's fine coat.
"Stealing in like a thief in the night!" her father bellowed. "How many times did I warn ye? Tell y'ta stay away from 'er?"
Andrew's eyes were wide and his chest heaved. Cecily had never seen him frightened before.
Andrew's shoulders looked narrow in her father's grip as he pressed the young man against the stone wall. His Adam's apple bobbed. He glanced over at Cecily and then back to her father. "I love Miss Faire, sir. I intend to marry her."
"Ha!" Her father's voice held vicious sarcasm. "You'll ne'er marry a daughter o' mine." The familiar scent of ale and rum wafted around her.
She knew what her father was capable of.
She was unsure if Andrew did.
For so long she had tried to hide the truth of her father's rages. Now there could be no denying.
Cecily's dreams were dissolving right before her, like a tallow candle left too close to the fire. Summoning every ounce of bravery in her small frame, she lunged forward, attempting one last time to divert her father's attention enough for Andrew to break free.
The muscles in her father's exposed forearms corded, and his hands shook with intense pressure. He bunched his fists around the lapels of Andrew's coat. His words came out in a hiss. "Stay away from my daughter. If I see ye 'round her again, 'twill be the last time."
He then shoved Andrew to the ground. He turned as if to leave, but then pointed a shaking finger back toward Andrew. "Your father may pay me wages, but dunna go thinkin' you can take what's mine. You dunna own me. You are a snake. You are all alike. The lot o' you."
Her father stumbled toward him, and fear for Andrew's safety trumped Cecily's own desires. "Go, Andrew. Run!"
With that, the youth scrambled to his feet and took off.
Her father turned his angry eyes on her.
* * *
"Get down, girl. Be smart about it."
Cecily winced at the harshness in her father's tone, but fear kept her lips pressed together. After the five-hour cart ride in the rain, in the dead of night, it was the first time he had spoken to her.
This was the gamble she had made, for she had known if her father ever discovered her plans, there would be no reprieve from his fury. She'd been so careful to conceal them. Although rough, her father was a cunning man, his shrewdness—and his contempt—sharpened by a lifetime of striking blows. It didn't take long for him to notice that she was fully dressed in the black of night and to find her discarded valise. She confessed her plan in the hope that he would forgive her. But instead of finding redemption, she incited his anger further.
Cecily clutched the side of the cart's bench and stared at the ground as if it were a pit of fire instead of dirt and gravel.
"I'll be glad to be free of ye, y'romp." He spat. "I said get down!"
Cecily jumped from her seat and scrambled down, propelled by the fear of bringing his wrath on her once more. She didn't dare look at him. She knew what she would find in his expression.
Instead, she glanced up at the building, trying to figure out where they were.
Somewhere in the misty distance, a wren broke into a morning song, and the gray light of an early spring dawn cast long shadows on the manicured landscape. Morning dew clung to the grass and evergreens, and in the light, it shone like diamonds.
And then she saw the brass marker nearly hidden by shrubbery.
Rosemere School for Young Ladies.
As the words registered, Cecily's heart thudded, threatening to burst free from her chest. How many times had he threatened this? To send her away to a girls' school. To separate her from her sister.
As if moving by some unseen force, she rounded the front of the cart. The donkey poked his nose against her arm, no doubt seeking a stub of a carrot or a lump of sugar. Hot tears stung her eyes. Would this really be the last time she saw the animal that had been her companion for as long as she could remember?
She did not have time to contemplate it, for in two large steps, Joseph Faire reached around and snatched her up by her arm. A cry escaped her lips. His grip tightened around her arm, and he all but dragged her to the door.
Struggling to maintain balance, she glanced up at the building—a formidable building of gray stone and latticed windows. A movement above caught her eye, and through the wavy glass, curtains parted and the faces of two girls appeared.
Cecily bit her lower lip.
Her father pounded against the heavy, wooden door, the volume of which disrupted the silence and set a dog barking. He adjusted the grip on her arm and muttered under his breath before pummeling the door once more.
Shame forced her to look at the worn toes of her black half boots, and she tried to stay calm.
Stupid, foolish girl!
Her father continued to beat on the door until movement and muted voices stirred within. After several moments it swung open, revealing a tall, sinewy man in haphazard dress, his rumpled linen shirt hanging over his trousers, his frock coat askew on his shoulder, and his feet in stockings. Sleep marks creased his wrinkled face, and his graying hair pressed against his head.
"What is the meaning of this?" the man hissed in an obvious attempt to keep his voice low. "It's barely dawn!"
Her father, on the other hand, made little effort for discretion. "I have a new pupil for you." He shoved Cecily forward. She stumbled at the sudden jolt.
The man shook his head, the crisp morning breeze whipping around the building's corner and disrupting his hair. He pushed his crooked spectacles up on his nose and assessed Cecily before speaking. "Return at a more suitable hour and we will discuss—"
"I'll not return at another hour." Joseph Faire's tone darkened. "We'll speak now."
Cecily was familiar with her father's brash ways, but the rise of the man's bushy eyebrows suggested he was not accustomed to being spoken to in such a manner.
The man finally blinked at her, then back to her father. "This is most unusual, you understand."
"What's unusual 'bout it?" Joseph Faire barked. "I've a girl, you've a school, and I've money to see her through 'til she's o' age—no more, no less."
The distance and the nonchalance in his tone shouldn't have shocked her, but they did. He spoke as if he were bartering for services or trading animals. Their relationship had always been strained, but did she mean so little to him?
A younger woman with a long, black braid appeared, dressed in a wrapper and hugging her waist. She placed a hand on the man's arm, her face drawn in pointed concern. "But we haven't the room. It will be at least another month before we can even consider—"
"Well, she'll not come home with me," spat her father, interrupting their conversation. "So 'tis up to ye, either she stays here, or she is on her own."
Excerpted from A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd. Copyright © 2014 Sarah E. Ladd. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another story that transports one to another time , another place where dreams can come true despite negative pasts! God surely uses Sarah to give us hope through her books! She has fast become one of my favorite authors: looking for future books!
Completely disconnected from her family, friends and impulsive youth, Cecily Faire takes a respectable position as a lady's maid at Willowgrove Hall and is suddenly thrust back into contact with the man who knows the secrets and shame of her youth. Desperate to avoid the truth and retain her position, she closes herself off from relationships with those around her – including Nathaniel Stanton, the handsome and capable steward of Willowgrove Hall, who bears his own set of secrets. While she struggles to maintain outward control, fighting to contain her heart is even more difficult. Will Cecily and Nathaniel be able to trust each other with the secrets of their past and, more importantly, will they trust the God who can bring them together? Read more in A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is the third book in Sarah E. Ladd's Whispers on the Moors series. I've not read the other two and this one was fine as a stand-alone book. I appreciated the theme of how speaking the truth opens up possibilities for healing and relationship. The plot was solid and well-paced. Writing style was adequate, neither amazing nor disappointing. However, while the novel was entertaining for a few days, I don't see myself revisiting it again in the future as there was really nothing to elevate it above any other book of its style. While A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd is not my favorite book, many readers will like it. I think it is best suited for readers who enjoy clean, nineteenth-century romances that are entertaining, but not amazing. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Loved the story, full of secrets!
This book was a great read...Enjoyed it
When Cecily was a teenager her father caught her trying to run off and marry the boy she loved. He took her far away to finishing school and abandoned her. He did not even let her say goodbye to her twin sister. Years later she is given a job as a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall. She soon finds out that her secret from years past finds her. Nathaniel is Willowgroves steward. He has a secret he has kept for years. He is the illegitimate son of the Willowgrove’s former master. Will all the secrets behind the walls of this great house continue to plague those who live there or will the truth finally bring the freedom they crave? What I liked: I couldn’t help feel sorry for Cecily. She made a bad choice and her father treated her horribly. She goes to Willowgrove to hopefully start a new and eventually find her sister who she has not seen in years. Instead she finds the man who broke her heart all those years ago. The story itself was interesting and I found myself wanting a happy ending for both her and Nathaniel. What I didn’t like: For me this book was slow and at times a little boring. I did like the characters but the plot seemed to drag on at times. There were so many sad part to this book. The ending was happy of course but the ending felt rushed after it seemed to take forever to get there. I read the first book in this series and really liked it. I was disappointed though in this one. It was well written, though the story itself just was not one that made me want to keep reading.
A wonderful story about a young woman who, through past mistakes, finds herself feeling alone in the world. By allowing herself to be a comfort to others, she finds an opportunity to be a part of a family again.
"Tell me, Miss Faire, what do you think of secrets?" This is the crux of this final book in the Whispers on the Moors series - everyone seems to have a secret to hide. Her characters are easy to love; Nathaniel's sense of duty and responsibility, Cecily's guilt and determination to make things right with her twin. Yet they each struggle with wanting to be honest, while fearing the consequences of transparency. After only a few months at Willowgrove, Cecily realizes "How could she expect others to trust her with the intricacies of their lives if she was not willing to reveal hers?" Like the raw emotions cloaked in the restraint of the Regency era, Ladd's descriptions of life on the Moors are understated. She draws beautiful pictures for her readers - you can smell the roses in the walled gardens, feel the chilly rain soaking your woolen clothes. This book just begs to be read with a hot cup of tea! Our lives today might not be so restricted by gender roles and moral expectations as in this era- for better or worse is open to debate - but it is interesting to consider how we are shaped by our perception of others' opinion of us. I hope I will always have the courage to face my choices (and secrets!) with confidence in forgiveness and grace.
Exceptional conclusion to the Whispers on the Moors series of historical suspense by this talented author. From the intensity of the opening scene of Cecily Faire's anticipated midnight ride to Scotland and forthcoming marriage to the desperate search for her missing sister, I have been entranced with this story. Romance and well guarded secrets provide a heady combination in plot development. Depth of character personalization, intrigue, and historical details all captured both interest and emotions. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall has been a pleasure to read and I add my full recommendation to readers of historical suspense and romance. Now audio listening May 13.16 Carmel O'Donovan capably narrating. Originally read February 7-8.15 thanks to Thomas Nelson for ecopy to review without obligation.
Love this series
Several twists and turns kept it interesting. And,of course, a happy ending.
I truly enjoyed this story. It was sweet and clean. I kept looking forward to picking up my nook to finish reading this story. I liked that all the characters felt real. A reminder the world is a small place.
A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is the third book in Sarah E. Ladd’s Whispers on the Moors series, coming after The Heiress of Winterwood and The Headmistress of Rosemere. Although I haven’t yet gotten the chance to read The Heiress of Winterwood, I read The Headmistress of Rosemere a little less than a year ago, and absolutely loved it. That novel made me a huge fan of Sarah’s, and this book just reinforced that decision. Honestly, I may have liked this book a little bit better than the second one, but I’m not entirely sure. Each is wonderful for mostly different reasons, so I cannot be sure which is my favorite. No matter, for both have made it onto my all-time favorites list, and that is a real accomplishment, to be sure. Cecily Faire has been harboring a secret for well on five years without telling a soul, and it has made it difficult for her to make real connections with people, which has kept her from finding a “family” to stand in for the one she lost so long ago. When she is given the opportunity to become a lady’s companion for the mistress of Willowgrove Hall—Mrs. Trent—she hopes that this can be a new start for her, though at the same time she dreads accidentally confessing something that could give away her greatest secret. Will she be able to open her heart to those around her, or will she choose to leave when surprising secrets come to light? Nathaniel Stanton—the steward of Willowgrove Hall—has also been harboring a secret of his own, one that turned his world upside down and caused him to live a life that is not his own. He has decided that marriage is not for him, at least not until he is finally able to reveal his secret, but when Cecily arrives at Willowgrove Hall, she changes everything. He is drawn to her in ways he never imagined he could be, but he knows she holds secrets, and he fears taking a chance on love. Will he put aside his plans of not getting married, or will he let Cecily, and the secrets she carries, into his heart? A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is a novel full of secrets, love, and forgiveness that will sweep you off your feet and touch your heart in ways you never imagined. And the best part about this book—aside from the wonderful romance that is—is the way that it weaves in Christian themes without preaching at you, though I would most likely be okay with it if it did. Anyway, I’ve already mentioned that I added this to my all-time favorites list, so it is pretty clear that I have chosen to award it all five bookshelves. It well deserves it, since it is a wonderful novel I would recommend to absolutely anyone. (This review is from my blog, spreadinghisgrace.blogspot.com)
The last book of the series, this is probably my favorite. While it doesn’t have the same adventure and suspense as the previous books, this one focuses on the inward struggles of the characters. You start with meeting Cecily and Nathaniel and learning each of their disgraces, the secrets that they fight from that point forward to keep hidden. I love that Sarah Ladd introduced us to the secrets from the beginning, allowing us to feel the weight of knowing what we do, even while we’re screaming at the other characters to understand. It is interesting watching both Cecily and Nathaniel deal with the weight of their secrets, some of it being not necessarily their faults. Regret weighs both of them down, and even while they’re drawn to each other, developing a sweet romance, they push away, fearing the consequences and believing that the other wouldn’t understand. But what truly made me fall in love with this story was the feeling of redemption when forgiveness is asked, and the complete understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness that can come. It’s nice that a character that made some bad childish decisions can find peace and move on. So this is definitely a book that I enjoyed and recommend to anyone who likes regency.
The Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd is the third book in Whispers on the Moors series. It is 1814 At Aradelle Park in Detham, England. Cecily Faire is seventeen years old at the beginning of the book. She is in love with Andrew Moreton, heir to Aradelle Park. Cecily and her twin sister, Leah live with their father (the blacksmith) on the grounds of Aradelle Park. Cecily is going to run away with Andrew and get married. Before Cecily and Andrew can get away, they are caught by her father, Joseph Faire. Joseph takes Cecily away to the Rosemere School for Girls. Five years pass (now 1819) and Cecily is now a teacher at the school. She has not heard from her father, sister, or Andrew since arriving at the school. Cecily is offered a position as a lady’s companion to Mrs. Harriet Tryst at Willowgrove Hall in Wiltonshire, England. Cecily arrives at her destination and is dropped off in the rain outside the gates. Luckily, she comes across Nathaniel Stanton, the steward for Willowgrove Hall. Cecily is welcomed into the Laurel Cottage, the home of Nathaniel, his mother, and three sisters. The next day Cecily meets Mrs. Tryst. Unfortunately, Mrs. Tryst’s heir has also arrived at the hall. Her heir is Andrew Moreton. He is now engaged to someone else. Cecily does not want anyone to know her secret and hopes Andrew will keep quiet. Cecily is not the only one keeping secrets. Mrs. Tryst and Nathaniel also have a secret. Cecily and Nathaniel start to spend more time together. Nathaniel is helping Cecily find her twin sister, Leah. Will Cecily ever fully trust someone (hopefully Nathaniel) and reveal her past? What is Nathaniel and Mrs. Tryst secret? Why is Mrs. Tryst so hateful towards Nathaniel and his family? Will Cecily realize that God is there for her despite her past? Read The Lady of Willowgrove Hall to find out the answers to the above questions. I give The Lady of Willowgrove Hall 4 out of 5 stars. It is a lovely Christian romance. The Christian aspect never comes across as preachy nor is there too much of it. The Lady of Willowgrove Hall is a sweet and romantic story. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley (and the publisher) in exchange for an honest review.
A Lady at Willowgrove Hall’s intriguing story of hidden secrets did not let me down! I first heard about Sarah E. Ladd through the "blogosphere" when her debut novel, The Heiress of Winterwood, was released. The striking cover design and the sumptuous title caught my eye and immediately piqued my interest. However, I never got the chance to read any of her books until now. Cecily Faire of the Rosemere School for Young Ladies is thrust into the position of lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall. Believed to be a high born lady, she conceals her true heritage. The daughter of a blacksmith, she fears her scandalous teenage dalliance will be revealed when she re-encounters Andrew Morton, the heir to Aradelle Park, years later. Meanwhile, steward Nathaniel Stanton hides a secret as well. He is the illegitimate son of the deceased Mr. Trent, the master of Willowgrove Hall. Forced to keep silent as not to ruin the reputations of his sisters, he is tied to Willowgrove Hall’s stewardship until Mrs. Trent passes. Ladd reveals Cecily and Nathaniel’s pasts to the reader at the very beginning of the novel, so we are left reading with anticipation to see how these secrets will come to light and be revealed to the rest of the characters. I love historicals set in England’s early 1800s. I felt that Ladd’s dialogue and writing lent themselves to an authentic-sounding voice for the time period that is still understandable for the contemporary reader. It brings to mind one of my favorite Regency authors, Julie Klassen (who actually endorsed Ladd’s The Heiress of Winterwood). With all the secrets and strained relationships, there is also a tension as well that well illustrate the burden that secrecy can cause and the liberation the truth can bring. I also loved the characters as well. Their motivations are believable and even those playing slight antagonistic roles such as Mrs. Trent or Mrs. Massey are never completely unlikeable. I’ll definitely be checking out more from Sarah E. Ladd in the future! *Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the author. No compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.*
Each Whispers on the Moors Series I've read I couldn't wait to finish, this book was no exception. The way Sarah Ladd writes you can't help but feel transported back to England in the early 1800s, as well as identify with one, if not more, of the characters. It is a story anyone can easily identify with. Yes it is filled with plots of romance, but it is also a story of finding self-worth and redemption through Christ within our own brokenness. As with most novels there are parts that are slow, however I felt were necessary to depict the characters' thoughts, feelings, and actions with the events unfolding around them. I started reading the series out of curiosity from seeing it on the store shelf and can truly say I hope it continues with book #4.
This is the first book by Sarah Ladd that I've read and I'm kicking myself. I'm usually so vigilant about reading a series in order but I wasn't sure this would be a book I enjoy so I just went ahead and read this one without tracking down the first two... Now I'm wishing I had taken the extra time. Of course, I can always read it again after I find the first two. YAY! This is a book that has completely and absolutely restored my faith in Historical romance! Once upon a time, I was an avid reader of Historical romances and I cringed every time the ladies outfits and behavior were described because - while I LOVE reading about the adventure and the brave characters who fell madly in love - I knew there were SOOOO many details that were just terribly wrong. Not so with this one! No, the characters are not perfect - even in historical times, no one was perfect. But they are so very much more accurate and I rejoice because my inner historian is finally calm and I can actually ENJOY the story! And yes, I have to go back and read books 1 and 2 so I can read this one AGAIN! BRAVO Sarah!
This book not only has a beautiful cover, but it is a beautiful story. I loved so much about it, but especially Cecily's insights and perspective. She is a strong character in unfortunate circumstances, but that does not hinder her compassion, courage, and loyalty. I think that is why she is a perfect match for Nathaniel since he exhibits the same qualities. The social restraints of the time period are definitely felt as they affect the circumstances of each character's past, present and future. It was interesting to see how each individual accepted the hand that they were dealt and made the best of their situation. Mrs. Trent was an enigmatic character as she is viewed by several as a bitter recluse, but through Cecily we learn more of her life's experience and witness the sweet theme of forgiveness. (Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing and LitFuse Publicity for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)
A Lady at Willowgrove Hall Sarah Ladd Book Summary: Her secret cloaks her in isolation and loneliness. His secret traps him in a life that is not his own. Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady's companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she's desperately hidden for years. Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father's position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breath a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he'll never be free to find his own way in the world. He'll never be free to fall in love. When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long suffered? Review: I love the overtones of Pride and Prejudice that was sprinkled throughout the book. The storyline was fresh and appropriately historic throughout. Cecily was not so enjoyable at the beginning and her character evolved so well. It was great to read who Cecily became. Nathaniel was so much fun and such a remarkable character. While he seemed so perfect he was not perfect. He was frustrated and painted into a corner while living a gracious person was so well written it made this story so authentic as if it was written in the the 1700 or 1800’s. The secrets while during the setting were tremendous for all involved given choices that were made. Andrew was a surprise in some respects. It is always great when people are written as frail people like myself instead of wooden and unrealistic. I am adding Sarah Ladd to my must read list. I would like to thank Net Galley and Thomas Nelson Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book in return for a free copy and I was never asked to write a favorable review by anyone.
Recently, I had the opportunity to read a complimentary review copy of A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, by Sarah E. Ladd. The book was set in England in the early 1800s. Historical fiction is a genre that I find very enjoyable. I'm not sure I fully understand the intricacies of the class structure, but still I find it intriguing. The properness of the relationships and the interaction between men and women is very interesting. There is something inherently romantic about period literature from my perspective. I really enjoyed the book. From the beginning, the reader was brought right into the story and felt a quick connection with the characters. The author did a fine job developing the characters. The secrets that they held were slowly revealed, as needed to better understand the characters. Reading this book left me wanting to read more period pieces and I certainly will check out the other works by Sarah E. Ladd. In fact, after completing the book, I discovered that it was actually the third book in the series. If you enjoy period pieces or romances, I would recommend you read this book.
This is another wonderful book by Sarah Ladd. I have never been disappointed in any of her stories and this is true of "A Lady At Willowgrove Hall" as well. This is book three in the "Whisper's on the Moors" series. It definitely stands alone and you won't be left wondering who everyone is. Although, I highly, highly recommend that you read the others books because they are so good! Cecily makes a mistake at a young age that ends up tearing her from her family and altering the way she sees herself. She holds this mistake close and carries it as a secret from everyone because she is afraid of what they will think of her. Nathaniel also has a secret that alters how he sees himself and he makes sure that no one finds out about this secret. His secret is one that isn't of his own making but he lives with it, nonetheless. When Cecily has the opportunity to become a companion to a woman at Willowgrove Hall, she is scared but thrilled to have a new beginning. She meets Nathaniel and they have an instant attraction for one another but each holds their feelings back because of the secrets they carry. They show such kindness to each other, though, and it's very hard for both of them not to want to share their secret with the other one. Mrs. Trent is the older woman that Cecily is a companion to and she also carries a secret that has changed her from a kind person to a cruel person that takes out her anger on Nathaniel. She has so much hurt and anger but, with Cecily's help and kindness we see some gradual change in her. I really like seeing the maturity of Cecily, Nathaniel and even Mrs. Trent grow throughout the story. I also like how we see Cecily struggling with the Lord because she views Him as she does her earthly father, who treated her poorly. It's also wonderful to see what forgiveness of others and one's self will do for a person and for relationships. I just loved this book. The characters were so wonderful and I love the time period and the fact that it's set in England. I loved the faith of the characters, the struggling faith of others, and the underlying theme that the Lord loves us despite our past mistakes or how we see ourselves. It's a beautiful book and I can't wait for the author's next book to come out! I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. *This book was provided to me for my honest review by LitFuse Publicity Group
Sarah E. Ladd in her new book “A Lady at Willowgrove Hall” Book Three in the Whispers On The Moors Series published by Thomas Nelson takes us into the life of Cecily Faire. From the back cover: Her secret cloaks her in isolation and loneliness. His secret traps him in a life that is not his own. Darbury, England, 1819 Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years. Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world. He’ll never be free to fall in love. When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long kept? History, England and Romance now there is a recipe for a terrific novel and Ms. Ladd cooks the story to perfection. Cecily and Nathaniel are two of the best characters that I have read about in a long time. Each of them has a secret. Each secret has them locked into the past, afraid of the present and unable to move into the future. They cannot accept each others love unless they somehow break free of the torment of their individual secret. You wouldn’t think that this would be a page-turner but it is. You fall in love with these two and you so want them to break free and embrace all that God has in store for them you just do not know how they can do it. That’s the beauty of the story watching to see how His plan for them unfolds. Great characters, great plot with plenty of twists and turns equals a great read. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”