Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Cry of the Peacock by V.R. Christensen

An illustrious marriage, a fortune, a position of wealth and influence. These are the dreams and ambitions of any Victorian woman of sense. Or are they? Perhaps not for Arabella Gray.

The death of Abbie’s father, the overseer of a large country estate, leaves her without means or resources, without, even, a place to live. Her landlords, in an extraordinary display of charity, invite her to live at Holdaway Hall. But the invitation is as puzzling as it is generous. Why are the Crawfords, who have never paid her any notice before, so concerned with her wellbeing now?

It’s a question the younger Crawford brothers would like to have answered as well. Certainly Miss Gray is a mercenary upstart. Certainly their brother is mad for fancying himself in love with her. Such a union would make them a laughing stock. They mean to put a stop to it, but when they learn that her past is closely—even disturbingly—connected with their own, they are brought up short, forced to ask themselves some very hard questions.

As Abbie herself soon learns, there is a great mystery at the heart of her landlords’ extraordinary offer. Everything she has ever dreamt of might be hers for the taking, but is the price worth it? More than her happiness alone rests upon her decision. If she refuses Ruskin Crawford’s offer of marriage, will she be able to live with the consequences? If she does, will she be able to live with herself?

In the end, all must ask themselves some very hard questions. What does it mean to be a man or woman of honor and integrity? What does it mean, after all, to be a gentleman? And what, exactly, is the price of a woman’s heart?

Following her resounding success with Of Moths and Butterflies, V. R. Christensen has created another engrossing family saga set in 19th century Victorian England. The Cry of the Peacock is about a young woman named Abigail whose family lands and inheritance was lost. She and her sister now live with an aunt who runs a home for unwed mothers; a very scandalous profession in society’s eyes, and one they must keep secret at all costs lest it shatter their reputations. When Abigail receives an invitation from her old neighbours, a family with three sons, who are determined to bring her into their home and treat her like their own daughter, she willingly accepts their benevolence. Of the three sons, the eldest, Ruskin Crawford, courts her with much enthusiasm. The other two, also soon grow to admire her greatly. As secrets begin to unravel, Abigail is left to make a choice that will profoundly affect the lives of everyone in their two families.

Graced with a touch of mystery, the scent of scandal, the taste of love, The Cry of the Peacock is wonderfully engrossing historical fiction. Page by page, secrets are revealed, and characters grow and develop, either blooming or shattering as the story progresses. The author is knowledgeable about the Victorian era with all its expectations and restrictions.  This intricate tale is revealed at a tantalizingly steady pace. Its rich, multi-dimensional characters and their individual motivations is a testament to the authors strength as a wonderful storyteller. I highly recommend both of V.R. Christensen’s novels, especially for readers who love family sagas written in the classic style. Truly a joy to read!

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