PUBLICATION DATE: OCTOBER 01, 2012
week before their wedding, Lord Whittaker and Lady Cassandra Bainbridge took a scandalous, unchaperoned carriage ride that ended in a terrible accident that left their engagement broken and Cassandra permanently scarred, both physically and emotionally. She is certain that no man will want her as a wife now that her legs are disfigured. With Cassandra determined that her disability is her penance for getting carried away with a man not yet her husband, she throws all of her passions into the design of the emerging science of hot air balloon travel.
Lord Whittaker is barely keeping his head above water with his responsibilities to the deteriorating Whittaker Hall, riots at his family’s weaving mills, and being blackmailed into becoming a spy to protect his family’s honor. Despite all of this, he longs for Cassandra to understand that he loves her no matter what her physical appearances may be. Can these two return to trusting God with their troubles? With English society demanding so much of them, can they determine what is truly important in life?
What I enjoyed most about this novel is the comparison of what members of upper Society during deemed “proper” to what we learn to value as Christians. One of the main issues with the society at the time, is if you are involved with anything scandalous, you and your family’s reputation are damaged. Forever. There is no forgiving and forgetting in English society at this time. Your shortcomings will be spread around like wildfire, and you are forever marked for the improper actions that society expects of you. Good “breeding” is also one of the most important things of the nobility. There is a time in the story when an infidelity inside a marriage which may have resulted in a child was overlooked because the child’s father was of nobility so there was no chance of a “corrupted bloodline”. These people clearly valued their claim to their heritage rather than the sins that were happening around them. In current times, we know as Christians that when we sin against God and confess, these things are washed from us forever.
There is also a great deal of conflict with the social classes that were distinct during the Regency. Everyone had their place and was expected to act within their social classes. In the novel, there was a great tension of the working class against the industry owners over fair pay. The Industrial Revolution was underway and England was breaking away from farmers who worked for nobility and lived on their land. Now factory workers were demanding wages that enabled them to feed and house their families. Eakes does an excellent job of allowing us to see the lives of the privileged and the working class.
One thing that I did miss was a small summary of the previous novel in the series. I have not read the first of the series, and I was confused of what happened in Lord Whittaker and Cassandra’s past. We learn multiple times that they were engaged several times and that the engagement was broken repeatedly. I never did learn why and I felt that I would have a better understanding of the dynamics of their relationship if I fully knew about their past. However, because the author does not tell us much about what happened in the first novel, I was inclined to read the first installment of the series to see how Cassandra’s eldest sister fell in love with her husband.
assandra Bainbridge’s courtship to Geoffrey Giles has been shaky at best, between him unexpectedly inheriting his late brother’s title and being made an Earl, to his disapproval of her ballooning pursuits, to the passion they just can’t seem to contain. When an unchaperoned carriage ride leads to an accident that results in Cassandra being badly burned, she can’t help but wonder if God is trying to keep her from marrying Geoffrey. Breaking off their engagement, Cassandra escapes to Geoffrey’s old family home in the country to recuperate from her injuries. Geoffrey’s mother has assured her that Geoffrey won’t be present during Cassandra’s visit, but he keeps making unannounced visits, often in unusual attire and with long, lanky hair. Although Cassandra knows that Geoffrey is keen to win her back, she can’t help but suspect that he has another reason for his visits to the country, one that may relate to a family secret and his business enterprises with the local mills. Will Geoffrey be able to win back Cassandra’s affection, or will her interest in scientific pursuits and his responsibilities with his family’s industry keep them apart?
Having loved Laurie Alice Eakes’s Lady in the Mist, I eagerly requested a review copy of A Flight of Fancy even though I hadn’t yet had the chance to read the first book in the Daughters of Bainbridge House series. But when I did finally get around to reading this novel’s predecessor, A Necessary Deception, I was slightly disappointed. Despite the intriguing plot, I struggled to connect with the characters and found the action scenes rather more clunky than suspenseful. Despite my qualms about this series, I decided to continue on to the next book in the hope that it would improve with time. And I’m glad to say that it has! I may not have loved A Flight of Fancy as much as I did Lady in the Mist, but Laurie is definitely back on top form with this book. There was so much to appreciate about this novel, from the underlying suspense to the fascinating details about ballooning to Cassandra’s realistic struggles with sexual temptation.
Cassandra’s character intrigued me in A Necessary Deception, and not just because of the unconventionality of her scholarly pursuits. I appreciated that Laurie dared to write about a character who struggled to resist temptation when alone with her fiancé, especially in a time period when even kissing was frowned upon prior to a formal engagement. Although she struggled with guilt over how unchaste she had been a certain points in her relationship with Geoffrey, I appreciated how Cassandra later came to realise that passion itself wasn’t sinful, if it was kept within the bounds of marriage. Considering the society Cassandra grew up in, and its strict social rules, I can see why she would think she was wanton for experiencing emotions for Geoffrey that no one ever talked about or admitted to. It must have been difficult being a young woman in Cassandra’s time, particularly if you were fortune enough to marry a man you loved, rather than having a match arranged by your parents, yet not understanding the feelings you had towards the man you were to marry. Laurie handled this aspect of the plot very well.
As with its predecessor, A Flight of Fancy contained a healthy dose of suspense, relating to Geoffrey’s secret mission with his uncle’s mills. While at times I did find some of the scenes surrounding this part of the plot slightly confusing, I didn’t feel that they overshadowed the main romance in any way. Although I’d already got to know Cassandra in A Necessary Deception, Geoffrey’s character still felt a little vague at the start of this novel, so I appreciated the chance to get to know him separately from his interactions with Cassandra and her family. And while I mentioned earlier that I found the action scenes in the first book rather clunky, this wasn’t the case for A Flight of Fancy. My only real complaint would have be that although I appreciated the suspenseful lead up to the unveiling of the villain of the story, the conclusion was slightly rushed, and I had to go back and reread the final chapters again to make sure I’d understood what had happened.
A long with my appreciation for Cassandra’s character development and the suspense in this novel, I also enjoyed being able to catch up with characters from the last book, particularly Cassandra’s younger sister, Honore. I felt a bit sorry for Honore in this book, as she always seems to be attaching herself to the wrong sort of men. I hope she gets her happy ending in the final book in the series.
The details about ballooning were also an added bonus, and I could tell that Laurie had done a lot of research into the topic. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever read a historical novel where the heroine creates scientific formulas for making a coating to cover the silk on a hot-air balloon, but it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds. Considering that I’ve not taken part in any scientific experiments since I was fifteen, I was pleased to discover that all the scientific talk in this book didn’t go right over my head, so don’t worry if you’re not at all scientifically minded. And even if you do feel a bit bored by the scientific conversations in this book, the scenes in which Cassandra rides in her balloon are sure to catch your interest. Even though I’m not fond of heights, I would rather like to take a trip in a balloon after reading this book.
If I have to comment on one flaw that I’ve found in all of Laurie Alice Eakes’s novels, it’s that the spiritual themes aren’t terribly well-integrated. I found this with Lady in the Mist, A Necessary Deception and now A Flight of Fancy. As with Laurie’s previous novels, the sections of A Flight of Fancy where Cassandra considered her spiritual dilemmas didn’t always feel like they’d naturally arisen from the story, and they often seemed a little tacked-on and thus took the reader out of the main plot, almost as a distraction or tangent. I’m not sure if this is a result of the author having previously written for the Heartsong Presents category romances, in which I’ve often found the spiritual messages to be more overbearing than those in longer Christian romances, but either way, I felt that the spiritual aspects of this novel needed to be more deftly woven into the main body of the story.
A Flight of Fancy is a definite improvement on the first novel in the Daughters of Bainbridge House series, and I’m greatly looking forward to reading the concluding novel. Although I had a couple of minor complaints with this book, I was captivated by Cassandra’s dilemmas and her fascinating exploration of ballooning. Combined with the suspense surrounding Geoffrey’s secret mission, I found it nearly impossible to put this book down. I hope that the third and final novel is just as enthralling.