The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor, Katherine Marlowe
Rating: 2.75 Stars
Publisher: Honeywine Publishing
Tags: Historical, Romance, Ghost Theme, Dispute Over Title, HFN
Length: 158 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
Just as the official blurb describes, Algernon Clarke has invested in some new technology for the times which didn’t fare so well, and he’s now on track for debtor’s prison. No longer living in his London townhouse, he’s in a run down garret when an offer comes his way that looks like a blessing. It seems he’s a long lost heir of an estate that has lay unclaimed for a century. There’s also a trust that will be his as well. The catch? He’s to sign off some of the Manor’s land to the railway. The railway wants to run through the estate and some of the villager’s property that comes under his title. Algernon is a firm believer in progress and it’s benefits, he’s also desperate, so he signs on the dotted line.
Mr. Sutton cast a meaningful look around Algernon’s meagre accommodations—a cold garret room with not even a fire in the grate in January. “Quite advantageous for all parties, don’t you think? An estate for you, a railway line for us, and progress and transportation for the people of Lincolnshire!”
Algernon is British but his mother was of Indian heritage, with darker skin, people mistake him for a gypsy on occasion. He goes to great pains to make sure people know of his mother’s noble lineage. Apart from some passion over his heritage he’s a pretty easy going man. In fact his loyal valet, Cullen, does not leave Algernon, even when he can’t afford to pay him. Algernon originally comes from a wealthy merchant family background, but he’s good to his staff and he tends to think about more than himself. However, he struggles to keep it together with Jasper once they officially meet after he arrives at Lincolnshire and his new estate.
Jasper Waltham is seen by the locals as the (un)official Lord of Wealdhant Manor. He tends the land and gardens of the estate and looks out for everyone in the village. He lives with his two sisters, Ginevra and Phoebe, whom he won’t allow to cross the threshold of Wealdhant because there are ghosts. Jasper is surly and straight up and down as a person. I personally call him ‘anal retentive with a great big stick up his backside’.
Jasper cannot abide the imposter he sees in Algernon, who it’s pretty clear is not a descendent of one of the daughter’s of the Earl, the last Lord of Wealdhant Manor. Who he considers a cats-paw of the railway company, and thereby the government. He believes Algernon is there for the money, the power, and he’ll sell off people’s houses and land without a second thought. Jasper sets out from the beginning to dig into this claim by Algernon. He wants him gone and he’ll make sure it happens.
What I liked –
The writing is technically very good – editing, grammar, choice of words, and the historical aspects. A sense of time is very much imbued into the pages and that’s always important to me. I need to be transported to the correct setting when I read and I certainly experienced that while reading The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor.
There was also an interesting and appropriate take on homosexual relationships in 1845 England. I’m glad molly wedding was mentioned but an epilogue with something about this would have been most interesting.
Mr Cullen, Algernon’s loyal, discreet and protective valet was terrific. I enjoyed it every time he was on page.
“I won’t abandon you,” Mr. Cullen said.
“Not until I’m off to the debtor’s prison? Or do you intend to follow me even then?”
Mr. Cullen shifted uncomfortably. “Until then,” he said quietly, not denying that Algernon would be bound there within a fortnight.
Jasper’s sisters, Ginevra and Phoebe. They were not in it much but they were charming when they were.
The ghost stories – everyone around Wealdhant had an interpretation of what happened to the Earl and his three daughters a century prior. Why the daughters, supposedly, haunt the Manor.
The latter part of the book appealed the most. When the protagonists were apart and then once they had connected again. I liked the characters better at that point. The whole book picked up then. I honestly would have enjoyed this book with more detail about the railway, the village, the people, Jasper’s sisters, and Mr Cullen. They were interesting.
But… I had some issues with this book –
By far and away the biggest problem was that I didn’t buy the romance. I struggled with the two MCs. Jasper irritated me, and Algernon, while appealing slightly more, didn’t bowl me over. I need to love or hate the main characters – something-anything to inspire my passion. I grew tired of the incessant bickering. I grew tired of who the heir really was or wasn’t. It was meant to be part of the charm but I found it served as the exact opposite. I became irritated. There was no sex and, to be honest, in a romance novel I’d prefer them to make love not war. A book doesn’t have to have sex for me to like-love it, but it must have other strong compensating factors. It must have very strong MCs and characterisations, for a starter. If you write romance you need to have chemistry between the primary characters and I did not feel any with Algernon and Jasper. Their kissing made me feel… awkward. I felt like I should excuse myself from the room. In all honesty it was like they (eventually) found a friendship borne out of some common ground, but nothing romantic.
“I would say that it was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Clarke, but under the circumstances I can’t really express as much. I don’t know what misconception has brought you to Wealdhant, but I must insist that you vacate the premises at once!”
“Vacate! On what authority, Mr. Waltham?”
“On the authority that Wealdhant Manor is not yours, and I would like to know what you think you’re about!”
“I beg to differ, Mr. Waltham!” Mr. Clarke objected, striding forward in order to return his glares more heatedly. “Waltham Manor is mine, you see, I have been discovered as the heir.”
“There isn’t an heir!” Jasper corrected him, bristling with anger. “What nonsense. After all these years!”
“In fact I am,” Mr. Clarke retorted…
This goes on quite a bit.
Just adding the above reminds me that there are a lot of exclamation marks throughout.
Sadly, the ghost story arc went nowhere and that’s a shame because the different versions of what happened were interesting. It just wasn’t fleshed out well, or resolved. I had hoped for an interesting thread with reasonable page time. Alas, this wasn’t to be. I also believe the attitudes of the MCs toward said ghosts were more in keeping with a contemporary outlook than those of men in 1845.
I feel that this book is full of missed opportunities. The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor missed the mark as a romance and there wasn’t enough of anything else to make up for that. I can’t help but feel that this book would have been better without a romance and with a higher word count and emphasis on the new technologies and village life in and around the Manor. A friendship or alliance built between Algernon and Jasper. The battle against the railway with, perhaps, the acceptance of/or activism against progress. Ms Marlowe has a good command of the English language and also created a real sense of time and place. However, if you label a book as a romance the reader needs to feel that’s what it is. There needs to be a pull of said relationship, the build. You need to enjoy the chemistry and the characters, you also need to feel the storytelling gripping you. Sadly, for me, The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor lacked those vital romance elements.
It may sound as if this is not a good story. That’s not entirely correct, there were aspects I liked but the ones I didn’t like outweighed them on this occasion. But I will state that I would read more by Ms Marlowe in the future as I believe she is an excellent author in the making. It’s just that this book did not work for me.
For lovers of technically sound gay/LGBT historical reading, with a romance that has little to no steam, this may well be for you. For the writing, the nice turn of phrase, the excellent secondary characters and the setting it’s 2.75 Stars!