By the King’s Design

Written by Christine Trent
Review by Cynthia McArthur

Annabelle Stirling (Belle) and her flighty, journal-writing brother Wesley own a draper’s shop in Yorkshire until a Luddite mob, unhappy with Belle’s purchase of a gig mill (an innovation of the Industrial Revolution) which would enable the shop to finish fabric more quickly, attacks the shop and tears the mill to bits. Belle travels to London, crashes a session of Parliament to demand restitution, and is naturally laughed out of the room. Indignant, she and Wesley set up shop in London, and Belle catches the notice of John Nash, the prince regent’s favorite architect. Belle receives a lucrative commission from the regent and becomes so busy with the intriguing cabinetmaker Putnam Boyce, and all of London society’s elite, that she does not notice Wesley’s descent into opium addiction and involvement in a plot to overthrow England’s government and kidnap the regent until it is too late.

This story is very well written. The character development is excellent, as we often get to read Belle’s sardonic thoughts about the people around her and excerpts from Wesley’s journal. The story gives the reader a peek into the changes English society was undergoing during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This novel is interesting, fast-paced and easy to read. Highly recommended.