Set in the late Victorian period, this novel recounts the academic and romantic adventures of Catherine Rayborn, a sheltered young woman reveling in her first taste of independence at Cambridge University. Catherine’s first year passes relatively quietly, broken only by a brief flirtation with a young man. Then she meets Lord Holt, a rake and sworn enemy of her cousin Sarah’s husband. Soon she is deeply involved with him, but heartbreak follows and she must look within herself before moving on to find true love and academic success.
Ms. Blackwell’s research blends seamlessly into her narrative with details of life in Victorian London and Girton College. While her secondary characters shone, I found Catherine to be somewhat problematic. She gave her heart too easily, appearing fickle and too naive, even for a young lady of her time. The leading male characters, notably Lord Holt, were a little more successful, especially in the area of motivation. While the author’s writing style did not engage me, her pacing and plotting more than compensated, allowing me to finish the book in only a couple of sittings. Also, the spiritual aspects seemed a little heavy-handed in spots. Overall, a pleasant read for fans of Victoriana and light romance.