By Christine Trent
Publisher: Kensington Books
“Remember what I told you, brothers. Leave the machines, but shoot the masters.”
Annabelle Stirling, a young craftswoman, finds herself marching towards London in hopes of finding aid from the Prince Regent after her draper shop is destroyed by the Luddites who had help from her now ex-fiancé Clive and her weak-minded brother, Wesley. With no help offered she is befriended by the architect, John Nash and encouraged to open up shop in London. Her brother slinks back into her life and because he is family, she allows him to work in her shop again.
Liking her spunk, the Prince Regent (King George IV) engages her services in decorating his Pavilion. Along the way she meets Putman Boyce, a cabinetmaker who holds promise in thawing Belle’s frozen heart. But due her brother’s inability to think for himself (probably due to his opium addiction) he has now embroiled them in a treasonous plot against the future King that ends him up in jail and Belle an outcast.
Trent throws us right into the riots caused by machines taking over jobs that were done by hand. The Luddites laid siege across the countryside destroying mills and shops that had these machines in them. On top of this there are families starving because they are out of work. Trent does not shy away from describing this misery and in fact makes it hit home for Belle when she stumbles upon her childhood friend and ex-fiancé (now married to each other) in starved condition. We also read about some very interested historical characters that Trent throws in, including Jane Austen who becomes an acquaintance with Belle.
Another piece that is thrown in is the Prince Regent’s tumultuous marriage and his quest for a divorce. He has many mistresses that are all vying for attention. We see the greed and vanity that often comes with being a member of the royal family. My impression on the prince is that he was very spoiled and weak.
Love all the intrigue and I did find it an engaging read. Heavy on historical and light on romance leads this Regency story to contain a lot of information that at times could be overwhelming to follow. But as the story reaches its climax, the reader is fully vested and will not be able to stop reading.
PURCHASE BY THE KING'S DESIGN