The Master’s New Governess (Harlequin Historical)

Written by Eliza Redgold
Review by Ray Thompson

1885. Employment prospects blighted by dismissal without references, governess Maud Wilmot goes in place of her recently married sister (also a governess) to a post at Pendragon Hall in Cornwall. Despite initial challenges, her imaginative teaching techniques endear her to timid, six-year-old Rosabel, and her relationship with the widowed Sir Dominic Jago is ripening into love before disaster strikes. Her former employer comes upon her alone in the woods, first threatening her, then, when Dominic arrives, accusing her of having made sexual advances to him. Desperately, she struggles against a panic attack and attempts to defend herself, but, as the sinister Lord Melville sneered after raping her, ‘No one will believe your story’. Will Dominic?

This romance stands out for three main reasons. First, it is inspired by Tennyson’s poem Maud, which offers suggestive parallels. Second, the symbolism of butterflies, used to teach science, and to provide not only a source for stories that both entertain and instruct, but also an imaginative escape and coping mechanism for Maud after her trauma. Third, mistreatment and sexual exploitation of those in vulnerable situations have been a threat for not only Victorian governesses, but many throughout history. It persists, sadly enough.

Highly recommended.