Without a Mother’s Love

Written by Catherine King
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

In 1830s Yorkshire, Harriet Trent moves to Hill Top House, hired as a governess for Olivia Copley who has been living with her great-uncle (Old Hesley) and cousin (Young Hesley) since the death of her parents. Olivia, a sweet but wild girl, becomes a young lady under the tender guidance of Miss Trent. However, the Hesleys are evil people, with drinking, gambling and the raping of innocent young women as common activities. Harriet and Olivia need to leave Hill Top House, but without money, family or friends how can they survive?

Harriet is the stronger character, a self-sacrificing governess who cares more for her charge than for her own well-being, and who attempts to do what little she can to improve their situations. Olivia is described as intelligent, but she comes off as childlike and dim-witted. When Olivia plans her escape from Hill Top House, she takes no food, has no planned destination and soon loses her one cloak and the little money she brought with her.

King’s Silk and Steel was on the shortlist for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year, but American romance readers should note that Without a Mother’s Love is not a typical Victorian romance. A majority of the sexual encounters involve an unwilling female participant, and the novel’s ending may leave some disappointed. Still, King’s third Yorkshire novel will please her loyal readers with its strong sense of time and place and its unpredictable plot twists.