Title: Dawn at Emberwilde
Author: Sarah E. Wilde
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Copyright: May 10, 2016
** I received this book in exchange for an honest book review**
Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.
For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.
The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.
At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.
At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.
Set in Regency England, Dawn at Emberwilde is the second installment in the Treasures of Surrey trilogy. The story centers on a simple young woman by the name of Isabel Creston who teaches at a school called Fellsworth. Isabel, very much a Jane Eyre-esque figure, has spent the majority of her life at Fellsworth – first as a student and later as a teacher. Consequently, Lizzie, Isabel’s younger sister is currently a pupil at Fellsworth and both of them seem to enjoy the regimented lifestyle of the school. While Isabel has known nothing but a life of austerity and her only prospect is to become a governess for a well-to-do family.
Everything changes for the penniless Isabel and Lizzie when a stranger arrives at Fellsworth. Mr. Langsby, the superintendent of the school, calls her into his office and immediately introduces her to a startlingly handsome young man by the name of Mr. Bradford. Much to her surprise, Isabel learns that she has a wealthy aunt (her mother’s sister) by the name of Mrs. Ellison who desires for her to come live with her at a manor called Emberwilde. At first, she is reluctant to go live with some aunt she doesn’t know but Mr. Langsby soon makes it clear to her that she has no alternative. He explains that she is blessed with opportunity and wealthy relatives, and if she stayed, she would lessen the chances of other young women to find positions as governesses. Deciding that it’s her best choice, Isabel agrees to go to Emberwilde and takes Lizzie with her.
In the forest around Emberwilde, Isabel meets her uncle, Mr. Ellison and the local magistrate, a young man by the name of Colin Galloway. While Isabel is very much taken with Mr. Bradford, Mr. Galloway cannot help but stare in awe of Mr. Ellison’s lovely niece with her flaxen hair and blue eyes. Not long after, Isabel and Lizzie meet Mrs. Ellison who is a pretentious snob of a woman and her daughter, Constance, who is something of a piano-playing virtuoso.
The Ellison women seem to treat young Lizzie with kindness and are determined into making her into a proper young lady. On the other hand, Mrs. Ellison seems to be in such a rush to marry Isabel off and this is something that she finds exceedingly unsettling. As life goes on at Emberwilde, everything from the seemingly kind Ellison family to the handsome Mr. Bradford to the dark forest (neighboring the estate) is replete with mystery. In an entirely new atmosphere, Isabel and Lizzie find themselves surrounded again and again by uncertainty and danger. Even more unsettling is the triangle that has formed between Isabel, Mr. Bradford, and Mr. Galloway. Can Isabel trust the Ellisons? Are Isabel and Lizzie in danger? Moreover, who are their friends and who are their enemies? Only time will tell.
Dawn at Emberwilde was a fantastic treat from start to finish. Again, like in Ms. Ladd’s The Curiosity Keeper, I was drawn into a world of Regency England (with all of that frippery and elegance) and experienced yet another splendid mystery unfold. I won’t give anything away but there were a number of twists and turns that truly threw me for a loop. The writing was clear, concise, and worthy of comparison to a Jane Austen novel. The characters were engrossing from the strong-willed Isabel to the believably quirky Lizzie to the self-important Mrs. Ellison to the dashing Mr. Galloway. In Ms. Ladd’s The Curiosity Keeper, I was drawn to the protagonist Camille Iverness but in Dawn at Emberwilde, I discovered and fell in love with Isabel Creston. However, I confess that my absolute favorite character was Lizzie with her childlike rambunctious nature and the manner in which she connected with others. Lizzie reminded me a little of Margaret Dashwood from Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, a precocious and playful little girl. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it 5 Lancaster Roses.