“Hired as a nanny for her cousin’s children, Anne Tearle finds security and a loving family. The children are a dream, but London society is a world of its own, one where a displaced farm girl has no business being. But, wealthy rake, Gavin MacKay, helps her to see associating with the upper class might not be as horrid as she first assumed.
Like all things worthwhile, love comes at a price, and the cost soon bestows more anguish than joy. Lost, but not undone, Anne must find the courage to begin life anew, or succumb to sorrow’s unrelenting waves of grief.”
The author has done good work with this novel. The writing is good, the story is good, the characters are complete and the reader can enjoy a diverse set of surroundings each brought to life with some key characteristics of the time.
Going into this book, the reader should remain aware of the following facts going into it. The story begins shortly before the American Civil War, Love’s Sorrow is the first in a book series, and while it begins as sweet romance the overall story certainly cannot be characterised as such. It has romantic elements, largely in the first part and towards the end, but that isn’t the focus of this book. It has tragic elements in it, some of which were fairly dark, albeit there was nothing too heavy to read. That is one of the good parts of the book; the author is able to mention some dark events without drawing them out or mishandling them. The reader can get the point and continue with the story.
The novel, the first chapter of which can be read on Amazon, starts with a likeable character, Anne. She’s nice, willing to please and innocent. Her youth and inexperience with London life costs her in the end, but you are allowed to enjoy the experiences of a woman being introduced to a privileged life for the first time after she has been through significant hardships throughout her childhood. She gets a chance to live a comfortable life, although it takes her some time before she finally realises just how comfortable it was going to be.
The story then turns to the love interest and, perhaps more simply than in most such novels, the suitor is identified and the chasing on his part begins. It ends quickly which leaves the question of what will be left for the rest of the story. At first the answer is what could easily be categorised as a dream. Anne is given as much love and riches as any girl might imagine. She is given a big house, dresses and jewellery all by a keen husband. Everything is going well for the former farm hand, as she enjoys a life even greater than that which her cousin had granted her upon arrival in London.
The story does take a nasty turn for her. Despite tastes of nice Scottish and American country, Anne is forced to deal with a husband who seems to really only want one thing. When she cannot give that to him he, and consequently the marriage, suffers. The cost mentioned in the novel’s description is truly felt and the innocent young woman who first arrives at her cousin’s doorstep transforms into a woman who struggles along in life.
Throughout the novel you get to read about a variety of dresses and hats among numerous clothing of the 19th century, as well as the challenges women faced in donning them. You get to see how a nervous Anne takes to her new role as the wife she is akin to the way a young deer would to walking. She stumbles at first in a way which would charm many and eventually is able to establish herself within an environment she is never quite able to woo. Anne starts out as timid but as she reacts to the many challenges in her life you are exposed to realities of the time and place. London was not all that pleasant, even for the rich.
From beginning to end the story, told from the first person, carries you through elation, frustration and hurt with the physical effects spread throughout which help the reader better understand, and likely sympathise with Anne’s plight. Importantly, the author gives the character a special flaw, which is the stubborn insistence she can recover from massive problems. Some might want to grab her by the arms and shake her about as they try to explain what’s happening, and it is the potential for this which can bring readers even further into the character.
Anne Tearle is a real person, not an unfamiliar one made partly to smash the story into life every now and then. She may be innocent at first, but she behaves and reacts in a natural way. She falls in love, and despite experiencing acute emotional and physical pain, she still endeavours to regain what she once had. Readers should recognise the different types of courage she summons; initially she finds the strength to continually try for a good life and later to make a decision which would changer hers drastically. She is likeable because of her kindness and admirable because of her choices when she is forced to confront the entire truth.
The story itself can be slow at times and often the author skips over events and leaves certain questions about some characters. You don’t always get to fully understand what is happening and why. Still, the novel itself is an easy read, especially in the beginning as positivity spills out of every chapter. It is difficult to critique this book, especially in terms of the storyline, because it the series has yet to be finished. While the true judgement can only be given when it is, one will be given now based only on what is in this book.
As long as you’re consciously starting this book knowing it is not an uplifting book or one with a warm ending you should be fine. It might even be fun for you to read about the lifestyle, colours and scenery of 19th century Britain and America. Anne’s story is not over. The first book in the Means of Mercy series lays a good foundation for what promises to be an interesting story.
General (strictly compared to other similar works in the genre): 6/10
Weighted (audience, author and personal opinion considered): 7/10