Castonbury Park, Autumn 1816
Shunned by society since she ended her disastrous engagement, Lady Katherine Montague is determined never to allow any man to hurt her again. Instead, Kate invests all her energy and emotions in philanthropy, building a village school, rescuing fallen women and supporting the abolitionist cause.
Virgil Jackson was born into slavery in Virginia, but sold into the north when he led a rebellion which had tragic consequences. Hard work, a brilliant mind and a fierce determination to succeed have earned him freedom, power and wealth, but it seems nothing will ever be enough to satisfy Virgil’s need to pay penance for his past.
Kate and Virgil meet at the house of the abolitionist Josiah Wedgewood, the son of the famous potter. Two outcasts, two rebels, they are instantly drawn to each other. But the past, for each of them, has taken a heavy emotional toll. Can they cut themselves free from its fetters, and take a chance on a love so shocking that even the most liberal of Kate’s aristocratic family will find it impossible to accept?
This is the third in the Castonbury Park series. Kate and Virgil’s story is set almost entirely in and around Castonbury Park, where the mysterious woman claiming to be the wife of the missing heir finally arrives ‘on stage’ and readers of the earlier books will meet the familiar cast of family and servants.
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I have read and enjoyed Kaye’s work in the past so when she sent me a review request, and included the link providing information about the series, I was intrigued. When I read the theme of the series, (see the Castonbury Park link above), I decided that I had to give it a try. Even though I have not read the previous books in this series, and I must fix that, I thoroughly enjoyed this third installment. The combination of supporting cast, time in history, the underlying story, and the extremely vivid hero and heroine made The Lady Who Broke the Rules very entertaining.
The introduction to Virgil certainly sets the stage for his character. It makes it plain the horrific things people can do to those they think of as sub-human. His treatment would have broken most and the fact that he not only survives but becomes an extremely wealthy man determined to make life better for others is a testament to his strength of will and determination. Even with that he was still tortured and mentally punishing himself for the aftermath of his rebellion. I especially loved his mental description of the fit, cut and style of his clothing – not to mention his description of the food. He also had an incredible strength of personality and charm, so instead of being ostracized or treated like the nth wonder of the world after his initial meetings with most people, he was mostly accepted regardless of their status.
Kate was also very interesting. She was a contradiction. On the one had she seemed to be completely accepting of her shunning from polite society and while not exactly flaunting it not hiding from it either. On the other hand sometimes her mask of acceptance would crack and some of the cost of her past would slip out. One of the things I admired about her is that perhaps because of her circumstances she has decided to do what she can to improve the life and plight of others. From her maid, Polly, a former streetwalker to the primary instructor at the village school, and the village children Kate was making a difference. She also hadn’t dealt with her feelings regarding the events that “ruined” her and the lack of support from her family since then. She really wanted acceptance and support but she wasn’t going to lose herself to gain them, which was something else I really admired about her character.
Watching Virgil and Kate interact with each other as well as the others in and around the estate was engrossing. Their slow friendship and attraction grew as Kate tried to deal with her family upheaval regarding the central theme of the series. Both Kate and Virgil would manage to inadvertently touch one of their other’s sore spots as they go to know each other during their conversations. I liked how the instant reaction didn’t result in rejection or a refusal to continue their friendship but instead generated healing. I also really liked how there was time between their initial meeting with attraction at first encounter and actually acting on that attraction. The development of an emotional relationship between them made their eventual physical encounters worth that much more.
While the relationship between Kate and Virgil was the center-point of this story it was set against the overall backdrop of the greater issue regarding determining the heir to Castonbury Park. Things continue to move forward regarding that concern as the stakes continue to get higher. I am very interested in seeing what happens next because the actions of the mysterious woman are well mysterious *grin*. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Lady Who Broke the Rules even though I didn’t start the series in the beginning. Kaye provides her typical well-fleshed out characterization with a touch of the unusual that makes her work enjoyable.
I give The Lady Who Broke the Rules a B+