Sophie’s Salvation

Written by Janet Aylmer
Review by Nancy Henshaw

The wars with France and America have ended, and in England mechanisation and expansion is the order of the day. Sophie Douglas is the difficult, middle daughter of Mr and Mrs Maitland. Before she fully realises how much she dislikes the man she has insisted on marrying, he meets a violent end, while her mother has perished through Sophie’s recklessness. The story recounts Sophie’s physical and emotional journeys. If she can but put her energy and determination to good use, she may be rewarded beyond her expectations. Her father’s heir Mr Harford, with his steady gaze and sudden smile, could be the one to encourage her in her intentions.

From the factories of Leeds to rural Dorset, and to the ruined vineyards of France, the narrative proceeds at a steady pace, introducing many amiable people, but it would have been more exciting with more conflict. For instance, parties or balls can be great occasions for indiscretion, misunderstanding and scandal; instead, everyone has a pleasant time and then goes home. A voyage taking Sophie and Mr Harford to France aboard The Lyme Flyer has lots of potential with the notorious Bay of Biscay at its most spiteful. We learn that they are unaffected by seasickness, but Sophie does not show any intense pangs of uncertainty about the feelings of the attractive and eligible hero.

All the ingredients are here for a first-class Regency romance. The research is impressive and the story well-told and enjoyable with a background of strong family feeling. But the kind-hearted author has spared her protagonists the desperate pains of falling in love, while readers can be cruel creatures who vicariously enjoy the suffering of fictional characters.