ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER, by Rebecca Anderson, Shadow Mountain, May 4, 2021, Paperback, $15.99 (young adult/ new adult/ adult)
Rebecca Anderson transports readers to 1850s Manchester in her Proper Romance novel, Isabelle and Alexander.
Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.
However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.
Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could. —Synopsis provided by Shadow Mountain
If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, also known as the BBC film of the same name starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, then Isabelle and Alexander is something you’ll most likely want to read. While the stories are different, the overall tone and feel, especially concerning Manchester and the mill, are the same. I could practically hear the movie soundtrack playing as I read. It was a welcoming feeling, almost as if I were revisiting a place I knew through the lens of a new romance.
Tone is everything in Isabelle and Alexander. You quickly become immersed in author Rebecca Anderson’s world. Isabelle almost feels like a friend you’ve known your whole life. Alexander is a harder nut to crack, his character expanding as the story transpires. Supporting characters, especially those in Manchester, are strong and add a depth and understanding to the story.
As part of Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance line, you can expect a gentle romance that focuses on emotional connection more than physical. It’s a fast-moving book that’s great for when you need a little escape.
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