The Great Estate

The Great Estate

by Sherri Browning

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"Sherri Browning writes with a wicked wit and an enormous talent. The Great Estate is...full of fantastic characters, interesting storylines, and a very humorous courtship."—Reader to Reader

Lady Sophia Averford's plans to turn her marriage of convenience into one of fiery passion are thwarted by the unexpected arrival of her mother-in-law. But unbeknownst to Sophia, Lord Averford has a few seductive plans of his own.

Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she married the dashing Earl of Averford...and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she's determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love... before they're lost to each other forever.

It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed his love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love...and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire.

Thornbrook Park series:
Thornbrook Park (Book 1)
An Affair Downstairs (Book 2)
The Great Estate (Book 3)

Praise for Sherri Browning:
"A sweet, natural chemistry." —Publishers Weekly on Thornbrook Park
"Browning gives the reader a most beguiling story and a classic plotline while capturing the atmosphere of the era." —RT Book Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402286858
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Series: A Thornbrook Park Romance , #3
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Sherri Browning Erwin writes historical and contemporary romance fiction, sometimes with a paranormal twist. She is the author of critically acclaimed classic mash-ups Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Sherri has lived in western Massachusetts and Greater Detroit Michigan, but is now settled with her family in Simsbury, Connecticut.

Read an Excerpt


June 1909

Sophia, Countess of Averford, ended up exactly as she'd always suspected she would: completely alone. She glanced up at her enormous portrait, hanging larger than life over the drawing room's marble fireplace, and sighed.

"We've done it now, darling girl," she said, looking into her own eyes, which were fixed in an imperious stare. "We've really done it."

What she had done was to give in to a kiss. No more than that. One passionate, toe-curling kiss. With a man who was not her husband. Didn't she deserve at least one kiss? Her husband hadn't kissed her in the longest time. When the Earl of Ralston had declared himself impossibly, irretrievably in love with her and had taken her in his arms, how was she to resist him?

Unfortunately, Gabriel, her husband, had walked in at the precise moment when she'd stopped pushing Ralston away and had pulled him to her instead. That one second of pull was all she'd needed, what she'd craved. In the moment, it didn't matter who'd taken command of her senses. But afterward?

Looking up over Ralston's shoulder and straight into the direct gaze of her husband in time to see his bright eyes cloud over with icy darkness, she knew that she had broken something in Gabriel, perhaps irreparably. He didn't storm, rail, or threaten murder, as she'd always suspected he would in such circumstances. He'd simply dropped his arms and walked away before she could regain her bearings and run after him.

They'd never spoken of it. They barely spoke at all. Her marriage had fallen into a shambles, and after months of few words and mounting hostility between them, Gabriel had packed his things and had joined his mother in Italy, leaving Sophia alone at Thornbrook Park. To add insult to injury, he hadn't entrusted her with command of his beloved estate.

He probably didn't believe her capable of organizing much beyond her own closet, and that only with the assistance of her reliable lady's maid. Gabriel's land agent, Cornelius Kenner, reported to Gabriel by letter once a week and then executed all of Gabriel's orders as they came in by telegraph. Or so Gabriel had been led to believe.

In her husband's absence, Sophia had taken charge. Why shouldn't she? Thornbrook Park was her home too, and Cornelius Kenner was dreadfully not up to the task. Sophia would have sacked him if not for fear that news would get back to Gabriel and he'd return on the next boat to give her hell. She wanted her husband back, but not until he was ready to return. Not until he was so desperate to see her that he would beg her forgiveness for running off and promise her the moon and stars for want of her affection.

Until then, she welcomed the challenge of keeping the estate in the best possible condition, perhaps even improving it where she could. For all intents and purposes, every servant needed to believe that Kenner was managing the estate, with Sophia only offering an opinion from time to time. Kenner was none too eager to publicly acknowledge his own incompetence and thus agreeable to Sophia's plan. His salary remained the same, and he maintained his successful image.

A year later, the lawyers, the butler, the footmen and maids, even Mrs. Hoyle, Kenner's cousin by blood, remained convinced of the ruse. Only once Gabriel returned would Sophia admit the truth. She would show her husband, and everyone, that she was a woman of sense and substance, a woman who would not be denied her heart's desire.

After a year on her own, she knew beyond any doubt that her heart's desire was to win back her husband's love, or at least to earn his respect. Respect should be guaranteed, considering the estate was thriving after a year in her capable hands. In fact, Thornbrook Park had been running at an increased profit, thanks in part to Mr. Wesley Grant, a brilliant strategist she'd lured away from Mrs. Alva Belmont, a visiting American.

Mr. Grant had come along filled with ideas of how to more effectively manage and find new economic opportunities for Thornbrook Park. Economic opportunities? Such a vulgar concept, but one she easily forgave from an American. She'd politely listened to Grant's ideas over tea, and she'd agreed to give him a chance after consulting her brother-in-law, Logan Winthrop, for his opinion.

Before Mr. Kenner, Winthrop had been their most capable agent until he married Alice and swept her off to Stratton Place and then to India, the Orient, Africa... Sophia lost track of where her sister was at any given moment. The Winthrops seemed to have plans to cover the whole world before coming home again.

Winthrop had suggested she hire Grant and send Kenner on his way. The Winthrops had gone off to India before confirming whether Sophia had taken the chance. Grant's official position was as Sophia's personal secretary, and Kenner's was estate agent, but each performed the other's job and neither seemed to mind it. Gabriel had raised questions when Mr. Kenner wrote to him regarding Mr. Grant's salary, but the earl had agreed to it in the end.

"Give her what she wants," he had written, full stop, leaving Sophia to guess at his mood or his intentions when he wrote it. She imagined him railing to his mother about all of his wife's supposed failings.

"Lord knows, she will take it without any regard to my feelings on the matter..." Or "She hasn't the sense to know she's overpaying..." Or worse, "What do I care what that woman does now? She's nothing to me..."

For all Sophia knew, her husband had consulted with his solicitor to discuss the possibility of divorce. She sat at the brink of despair, mulling over the possibility, until her aunt Agatha swept into the room as if to remind Sophia that she would never be completely alone, should everyone else abandon her.

"Dear girl, light some lamps! Nothing good can come of sitting alone in the dark." Agatha paused a moment as if to reconsider. "Not entirely true, of course. I've had some of my best moments alone in the dark, but we're very different, aren't we? The dark doesn't suit you, my dear."

"Has it grown dark? Indeed you're right. I hadn't noticed." Sophia remained as limp as a discarded doll in her chair.

Agatha closed the distance between them, switching on lights as she approached. Even before Sophia's eyes could adjust to the light, she had a clear image of Agatha in her fire-orange and aubergine ensemble. Her aunt settled on the sofa beside Sophia.

"I've had a letter from your mother."

It wasn't unusual for the sisters to be in communication, but something in her aunt's tone told Sophia that unexpected information was to follow. She straightened up a bit. "Yes? And how is everyone at Delaney Square?"

"They're all well. Even your father." Agatha didn't hide her disappointment with that bit of news. She'd never gotten on with Sophia's father. Sophia had done her best to keep them apart at Alice's wedding to avoid any unpleasantness. "It seems that she wrote with news that concerns you. She always was such a gossip, you know."

Sophia waved her hand dismissively. "I know. Her intricate web of tittering busybodies could rival the king's own network of spies."

Brow furrowed, Agatha placed a hand on Sophia's knee. "Gabriel's back."

Sophia looked left and right. Agatha considered herself in communication with the spirit world and liked to read fortunes, but she probably didn't mean her comment in the literal sense. Sophia assumed she meant that Gabriel's essence was in the air, or some such nonsense. "Where?"

"In London, dear."

"At Averford House?" Sophia tried to contain her surprise. She hated London. Their house in town stood empty most of the time, unless Gabriel went to London to tend to parliamentary affairs. "In London? Now?"

Agatha nodded. "Lady Levesque told your mother that he has been there this past month. A fortnight at least. I'm not certain exactly when he arrived."

"But he's there. And he didn't see fit to inform me that he'd returned to England?" Her heart dropped like a lead ball to the pit of her stomach. She rose and began to pace, no longer bothering to hide her distress at the news. "Not a word to me. Not a word to Mr. Kenner? Or do you think he knows? Kenner knows. And who else? Have they been instructed not to tell me? Or do they pity me too much to say a word?"

Agatha stood and came to her side. "Don't become agitated. I don't think anyone knows. Of course, the people in London know. Or so it seems. He has been carrying on as usual."

"As usual?" Sophia cocked a brow. Only now did it occur to her to ask what her husband did in London when she did not go with him. "Carrying on?"

Dread, cold as ice, snaked up her spine.

Agatha shrugged. "Attending dinners. Musicales. Perhaps the theater? He's a respected man, an earl. There are always invitations and the responsibility for a man to attend such things."

"Of course." Sophia gripped the back of a Chippendale chair. "Responsibilities. He must have come back for a vote. Parliament. How long could he stay away, after all? A man in his position."

"Exactly." Agatha clapped her hands. "That sort of thing. How long could he avoid such business? There's talk of reform..."

"What reform?"

"There's always reform, dear. The Trade Boards Act, the Labour Exchanges Act..."

Sophia narrowed her eyes. "You follow politics, Aunt Agatha?"

Agatha tilted her head. "As one does. It's important to keep up with current affairs, don't you think?"

"As one does." Suddenly, Sophia felt more inadequate than usual. She'd never paid attention to such things. It simply wasn't ladylike to follow politics, as Mother always said. But Mother had been wrong about so many things, and they weren't living under Queen Victoria's rule any longer. It was a brand-new day.

"Lord Osborne probably urged him to return for one cause or another." Agatha shrugged. "An important vote on the line or something of the sort. Men do get so caught up in it all. There probably wasn't enough time to send word."

"Or even telephone? It wouldn't take more than instructing Sutton to telephone Finch and have Finch let me know. Or a telegram, if he couldn't be bothered with more." The butlers of their London and Yorkshire houses remained in communication as needed. As much as Finch had been hesitant to use the telephone, he had finally come around.

Agatha closed her eyes and fluttered her fingers in the air. "The spirits are active. I think we can trust that Lord Averford will be finding his way home soon."

"How do you know? Do the spirits share such information?" Sophia cast another glance around the room. "Are they here now? Ghosts?"

"Just Miss Puss." Agatha gestured across the room. "She's sitting in Lord Averford's favorite chair, a sure sign she is anticipating his return."

"Just Miss Puss," Sophia echoed. Miss Puss was Agatha's most devoted companion, a ghost cat that she had brought with her when she moved from the Dower House to a suite in Thornbrook Park. In fact, Sophia had resorted to sending a footman over to "catch" the elusive Miss Puss in a hatbox when Agatha threatened not to leave the Dower House without her.

Fortunately, Agatha believed Miss Puss had taken a liking to Bill, the footman, and showed up to follow him without need of the box. They'd all come to accept the cat as real, whether or not she lived only in Agatha's imagination. No one but Agatha had ever seen Miss Puss.

"I wish I had more of a sign," Sophia said. "Miss Puss could simply be missing Gabriel."

Agatha shrugged. "Perhaps it's time to take matters into your own hands, my dear. Write to him. Or telephone."

"You're right, Aunt. Of course." She filled with sudden inspiration. "Why didn't I think of it right away?"

"Think of what? Telephoning or writing?"

Sophia rang for Mr. Kenner. "Nothing of the sort. I don't want Gabriel to have any warning of my arrival."

"But you don't mean to-" Agatha was interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Kenner.

The man hesitated in the doorway as he awaited orders, pushing his spectacles up on his nose in a manner that added gravitas, if not age, to his thin frame. He still parted his fair hair in the middle, like a schoolboy, and slicked it back at the sides.

"Yes, Lady Averford?"

"Kenner, make the necessary preparations. I'm going to London."

"London?" Kenner and Agatha echoed at once. "But you hate London."

She nodded. "Yes, I know. Apparently everyone knows." Kenner must have heard it from the other servants, the gossips. She didn't remember ever sharing the information with him directly. "But if that's where Gabriel intends to stay, then I mean to join him there. Our estrangement has gone on long enough."

Or at least she'd let him stay away long enough. It was time to remind him what he was missing before he concluded he could very well get on without her. She only hoped it wasn't too late.

* * *

The Earl of Averford's boots slammed the cobblestones with force, a somewhat jarring sensation considering the worn state of his soles. New boots, fine Italian leather. He should have known not to relent to wearing such frippery, but for once he'd listened to his mother.

"A fine man needs fine clothes," she'd said. "Delicately spun silks. The softest kidskin. Textures sensual to the touch. You want to impress Sophia with how much you've changed."

A man could only change so much. He was a man of sport, not style. Good English boots could stand up to months of traipsing through wilderness. The foppish Italian riders had given out after a mere fortnight of pacing London's streets.

In truth, he had done an extraordinary amount of pacing since leaving Thornbrook Park. He'd worn a crevice in the stone floors of his mother's Italian palazzo. In London, he preferred to channel his pent-up frustrations into walking the streets instead of treading his Aubusson carpets threadbare. He had determined that he wouldn't return to Sophia until he'd become a better man, a romantic man, someone who knew about paintings, music, literature, and the art of love.

He aimed to show her that he cared about the very things that impressed her most, the finer things, and that she needn't look any further for a skilled lover than in their own boudoir. It had taken him years to understand that he had gone about being a husband all wrong. Only catching her in the arms of another man seemed to have wakened him to the reality that he'd failed her. Miserably.

Once he'd gotten over his anger, of course. His first reaction had been one of murderous rage, but one glance at his former estate manager, who had stumbled on the scene at the same moment, calmed him. Winthrop, a man shadowed by an act of rage for half his life, had learned to face any challenge with level-headed shrewdness. In that instant, Gabriel became determined to follow Winthrop's stoic example.

If Gabriel's wife wanted to kiss another man, who was he to stop her? Killing her lover wouldn't win her affection back. Besides, Sophia craved drama the way some yearned for a tincture of opium. She might have arranged the whole performance specifically to get a reaction out of him. For the entire holiday season, she had been out of sorts.

"Who could blame the poor woman, out of her mind with fear for her sister?" His mother had defended Sophia.

Sophia's sister had been thrown from a horse and was recuperating from serious injuries at Thornbrook Park. That accounted for the presence of Lord Ralston, a supposed admirer of Alice's. Gabriel was not surprised that the bounder had been using Alice as an excuse to stick close to the real object of his affection, Sophia.

Admittedly, Gabriel had practically ignored Sophia in her time of need and had allowed the situation to escalate by giving Ralston every opportunity to turn Sophia's heightened emotional state to his advantage and attempt a seduction. Gabriel had realized the man's intentions too late and then failed to act on his suspicions in time. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to find the man attempting to woo his wife and yet...Gabriel had been flabbergasted at the sight of them.

Nearly from the start, he'd blamed no one but himself, but he'd been too ashamed to address the subject with Sophia. He wasn't accustomed to failure, particularly at such a personal level. Communication between them had been difficult at best since the loss of their infant son, neither of them knowing quite what to say to the other.

"These things just happen sometimes," the doctor had explained. "You put a perfectly healthy-looking newborn to bed, and he simply never wakes up."

Their little Edward and all of their hopes and dreams had been buried in the ground. Gabriel had been at a complete loss about how to comfort his wife when his own grief had pierced like a flame-hot dagger through his raw heart. And now, like then, Gabriel had found he was at a loss for words.

Gabriel's brother, Marcus, had been born with their father's silver tongue. Gabriel had learned to make use of more physical skills to make a point, but he'd clearly become a better fighter than a lover. In that way, he hoped he had changed. He aimed to show Sophia what he'd learned in Italy from paying close attention to the masters of love: poets, musicians, philosophers, and artists. The only way to make amends was to seduce her, body and soul.

"What's on your mind, Averford? You're dreadfully quiet." His companion, Lord Wilkerson, struck the ground pointedly with his walking stick as they made their way back to a parliamentary session from the pub. "But then, you've never been one for idle chatter."

Seducing his own wife? Hardly a confession to make to one's peer. "Boots. I'm thinking of my boots, Wilkerson. Damned uncomfortable."

"Boots are passé, Averford, but then you would hardly know that, staying away from London for so long. What you need is a good pair of shoes with bulldog toes, maybe some spats." Wilkerson stopped walking and pulled his trouser leg up an inch to display his footwear, black shoes that bulged up a little at the rounded toe.

Gabriel laughed. "You think to make me into a fop like you, Wilkie?"

"Not a fop." Wilkerson colored at the suggestion, his thin mustache looking more white than silver in contrast with his brightened cheeks. "A man of style."

"Have you met my mother, Wilkerson? It occurs to me that the two of you would make quite a pair."

"Your mother?" He stroked his pointed chin. "Can't say that I've had the pleasure. In Italy, isn't she?"

Gabriel shook his head. "Paris. She's ordering a new wardrobe."

"Yes, ladies and their finery. I do appreciate a well-attired woman."

"To each his own. I prefer them without a stitch." Gabriel flashed a roguish grin. The idea of making love to Sophia had become a constant distraction. He'd meant to stay in London for a few weeks, enough time to make up for neglecting his parliamentary responsibilities, but nothing mattered more to him than making up with his own wife. "If you'll excuse me, I think I'll look into new shoes. Bullfrog toe, you say?"

"Bulldog, man. Bull. Dog. You'll thank me. But don't run off now! We're almost there. We've got to vote."

"The vote will pass without me, Wilkie. You make a very persuasive argument on the rights of the poor and the good of all men, and so on. I simply can't wait another minute for those shoes. Good day." Gabriel tipped his hat and ran off before Wilkerson could make another argument to stop him.

If he hurried back to Averford House and urged Sutton to pack only the most necessary things, he could be on the train back to Thornbrook Park in no time.

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The Great Estate 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Griperang72a More than 1 year ago
I loved this book just as much as the first one. This entire series has been one of my favorite series I have read and I look forward to each of the books in this sereis. I am not sure if there is going to be another one or not but I hope so. I really like the author's writing style. Her books read so fast for me. I really like the way Sophia has changed from book one to now. I like her a lot now. It was so nice to see how much Gabriel did to make sure that his wife would love him again. They way they both were working towards the same goal was so sweet even though they seemed to misunderstand each other at times. As always Aunt Agatha was one of my favorite characters and this time we get to meet Gabrial's mother Teresa who at first I was not sure if I would like but I found I do like her. There are some unexpected things that happen in this book but I can't mention or it will spoil the story. Highly recommended series.
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
The Great Estate, Sherri Browning  Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:  Romance, Historical. Well, the Downton tag in the blurb pulled me in. Over the years I’ve read some great novels that cover life in part of one of the big Houses of the past. There’s something fascinating about the hierarchy, the way everyone plays their part, and the household becomes almost like a tiny, insular country of itself. Sadly though this book was perfectly well written and had likeable characters I felt there was too much missing for me and I didn’t enjoy it. I liked the characters – and that was part of the trouble. It was all so..nice...from the people to the story. No nasty, evil characters, no real drama, or plots that make you wonder what’s going to happen. Somehow its all so sweet, so pleasant that you just know everything is going to work out well. I was thinking the separation from Sophia and Gabriel might lead to drama but no...nothing much there, nothing unpredictable, then maybe the mother-in-law – but though she’s interfering nothing really developed, maybe the political side, the way Sophia has grown interested over the past year, or perhaps the plot that erupts later in the book. Nope, none of them really held me. Its a sweet book, well written and likeable – if you just want something easy to read that's not going to need much thinking. For me I need more and that's why my rating is low – it’s a reflection of my personal view and not of the actual quality of the novel or the writing.   Stars: two, just not one for me ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers   
gaele More than 1 year ago
I’ve read each title in this series, and this story picks up with yet another series of miscommunications as our couple struggles to find and redefine their marriage. An Edwardian era story, I appreciated the attempts to incorporate some of the changes that were happening in England at the time, even as some roles stayed perfectly static. Sophia and Gabriel have been estranged, Gabriel encountered Sophia being kissed by another and promptly took flight. Thinking the failure is his fault, he has embarked on a self-improvement journey that is now coming to a close. During the separation, Sophia actually grew up: she was spoilt, willful and shallow, and not prone to saying what she wanted or needed. With Gabriel’s absence, she has learned to manage the estate and her own life, learning that he was not the only one in the wrong when it comes to their marital difficulties. These two just never seem to let down their guard and just speak. Learning to trust one another again after the absence should have meant talking and asking –but they fall into the old patterns and behaviors, despite wanting to make things work out. Slowly the two start to recognize and appreciate the change in one another: Gabriel notices, and is impressed with the changes Sophia has made.. and he tells her! BIG Hurdle overcome. She’s reveling in the attention, but a tiny petulant little girl still wants to punish him… the road to reconciliation is often one step forward two back for this couple. A bit too heavy on the tell with too little show kept the emotional impact of the characters and their struggle a bit difficult to reach. Both were so immature in moments, juxtaposed against what they claimed to want that I often wanted to just knock their heads together. Still, this continues in the feel of the series, and as is common with the Thornbrook Park couples, it is more go than touch right to the end. A solid installment in the series. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Bookworm2Bookworm More than 1 year ago
Sophia, the Countess of Averford, is married to Gabriel, the Earl of Averford. When Gabriel saw Sophia kissing the Earl of Ralston, he was infuriated and left her alone at Thornbrook Park with her lady’s maid and other staff. During his absence of a year, Sophia has taken over running the estate quite well, working closely with the estate agent. She has learned to handle the financial side and has made some good changes to Thornbrook and the land itself resulting in very good profits. She is quite proud of her accomplishments and hopes that when and if her husband returns, he will see that she has done such a good job that she can earn back his love and respect. When Gabriel does return, he is a determined man. He realizes that not everything is Sophia’s fault and he wants to become a better man by being more romantic and showing an interest in things that Sophia enjoys. As it happens, their infant son died not long after birth some years ago which put a strain on their relationship in addition to the terrible grief they suffered. Gabriel wants to immediately bed his wife again but Sophia is not ready for that. His swift departure did not give her a chance to explain to him that she had been taken unaware by the Earl of Ralston when he kissed her. Gabriel needs to learn to woo his wife once again and to see if their love can return to what it once was. Sophia is angry when Gabriel takes over the duties that she has run so well shooing her away and not showing the proper appreciation for her efforts. This leads to a lot of friction that does not help with repairing their marriage. What more could happen to cause irritation? Ah! The visit of a pushy mother-in-law has Sophia seeing red. However, she has learned a lot about speaking her own mind and soon, begins to put lots of things to rights. Will Sophia and Gabriel be able to put the past behind them and find their love again? I have once again enjoyed Ms. Browning’s book and look forward to reading more of her writing.
SummerSnowFalls More than 1 year ago
Sophia and Gabriel Thorne have been married for eight years. At first, everything was wonderful. Sophia was a fresh-face young debutante swept into marriage practically in her first season and married to the new Earl, Gabriel. Gabriel was likewise smitten by the enchanting Sophia. But neither seemed to remember the first and most important lesson in marriage - communicate with your partner!! Instead of telling his wife how alluring she is and how much he wants to be around her all the time, Gabriel attempts to hide his ardor behind seeming indifference and distraction. Sophia listens to some truly terribly marriage advice imparted by her mother and also hides her desire and attraction from her husband. So it is no surprise to the other when Gabriel find Sophia is a seemingly compromising position with another man. Instead of sticking around for an explanation, Gabriel takes off. For the last year, Gabriel has been gone from Thornbrook Park, leaving Sophia to pick up the running of the estate. But now he is back and expects everything to be just the way it was before. This is a tale that is all about what can happen when spouses fail to communicate and instead come up with crazy, hare-brained assumptions about what the other is thinking and feeling. In many respects, this was absurd and frustrating. I don't like plots that are created simply around a failure to communicate. You'd think after eight years of marriage, Sophia and Gabriel wouldn't have this issue - at least not to this extent. It seemed more like a newlywed problem. However, this same problem did lead to some very entertaining scenes with a great cast of quirky characters and their one-liners full of double-entendre and hidden meaning. Which is, in fact, the saving grace of this novel. While Sophia and Gabriel were just "ok" characters, it was their interactions with the other characters - particularly Aunt Agatha and Gabriel's mother - that really made the novel come to life. Without them, Sophia and Gabriel were a little flat. Sophia was a fantastic estate manager with some fabulous ideas to keep Thornbrook Park running with the modern times, but these skills didn't seem to have any use outside the reader being told she was good at it. And Gabriel...well, he kinda seemed to just be there. We didn't really learn anything about who is he, what he likes, his hobbies, his beliefs...nothing. Not that we learned any of these things about Sophia either. Which is why there was no connection to these two; they were just words on a page instead of the dynamic and enchanting characters they could have been. Overall, an okay read. Nothing I would run to tell friends about since the novel could benefit from some serious work on characterization. However, the action-based parts of the plot were good and I enjoyed reading those parts. As a final note, this novel is the third in a series. While you do not need to read the others to understand this installment, I do get the feeling that it would help immensely. There are a number of references to prior events that made it clear this was part of a series. Originally posted at Plot Twist Reviews [dot] Com I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.