Book Review: An Untitled Lady by Nicky Penttila

untitledladyShocking family news forces Madeline Wetherby to abandon her plans to marry an earl and settle for upstart Manchester merchant Nash Quinn. When she discovers that her birth father is one of the weavers her husband is putting out of work—and a radical leader—Maddie must decide which family she truly desires, the man of her heart or the people of her blood.

An earl’s second son, Nash chose a life of Trade over Society. When protest marches spread across Lancashire, the pressure on him grows. If he can’t make both workers and manufacturers see reason he stands to lose everything: his business, his town, and his marriage.

As Manchester simmers under the summer sun, the choices grow more stark for Maddie and Nash: Family or justice. Love or money. Life or death

Obtained in ebook format from www.netgalley.com, read on an ipad using kindle software.

I went into reading this book thinking it was a “classic” (Mills and Boon) romance story but soon realised that it was much more than that – and for the better.

Maddie has been brought up to marry the 1st son (Deacon) of her godfather, only to find herself rejected not only as the wife of an Earl, but as a Weatherby (she finds out she was adopted as a child).  With no money, family or prospects, she agrees to marry Deacon’s younger brother Nash, who works in Trade in Manchester. It’s only when she arrives at her new home does she realise what it means to live in a manufacturing city house, rather than a country side estate – and what it means to be a wife.

Nash meanwhile has to deal with a wife who appears to not love him, and unwilling to perform her wifely duties in the bedroom (and acts oddly when she does).  He also has to deal with the fact that there is discontent in the workers, where there are rumours of strike action and sedition to protest over lost wages and poverty (whilst the business men are living in palatial houses on the hill).

The rest of the story deals with the run up to Peterloo, the massacre of members of the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester to protest the need for reform and suffrage for all.  Nash tries to balance between being a magistrate, a man of business, and trying to do the right thing for his workers.  It doesnt help that his wife is seeking out a sense of belonging with her newly found family – and whose father is one of the men leading the protesters.   Their marriage is at an all time low just before the final meeting, which splits the two apart, Maddie making the only choice she thinks available to her.

I did pick up on a couple of words which were a little jarring. Thankfully the author didnt attempt a Mancunian dialect, which can be very hard to both write and read BUT….I was almost prepared to ignore the use of the word “biscuit” when Quinn was in the kitchen to talk about supper. (Was this the *proper* use of the word biscuit – American “Cookie”- or the American usage as in “biscuits and gravy” – i.e. something akin to a scone or bap?). It did pull me up on it enough to check where the author is from (yes, she’s American). It was a small thing, not necessarily relevant to the progression of the story, but the author had done well to this point and it would be a shame to let it spoil the story. However, then came the use of “Fall” instead of “Autumn”. Sharp intake of breath! Time for a quick glance over the MS by the Europe editor?

Anyway, yes, these bits were small in the grand scheme of things, and shouldn’t spoil the story, which certainly was no standard M&B romp – in a good way! It took me several days to read, and required me to pay attention all way, which I gladly did.

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