Title: Starving Hearts
Author: Janine Mendenhall
Publisher: Heritage Beacon Fiction
Copyright: May 16, 2016
Format: E-Book, 300 Pages, KindleUnlimited, $7.95 [Amazon Paperback], $1.99 [Kindle], $11.64 [Barnes & Noble Paperback]
Since her assault, Miss Annette Chetwynd has been plagued by nightmares and worries about an arranged marriage. But she yearns to find her anonymous rescuer. Unfortunately, her health and intellect prevent it. Both repel suitors and cause Annette to doubt God’s existence, at least until He answers her prayers in an unusual way…
Mr. Peter Adsley is joining the clergy, and he desires a godly wife by his side. After a failed attempt to obtain one, he engages in a clandestine meeting with the bewitching young woman who keeps crossing his path. But she is so unsettling.
Destined for disappointments, Peter and Annette both endure disgraceful situations. Will Peter’s faith sustain him through overwhelming setbacks? Can Annette overcome her doubts? Or will their starving hearts yield to the machinations of a mad man?
Annette Chetwynd is the apple of her father’s eye and a source of endless envy for her mother. A sickly creature with a propensity for fainting spells, she is conducted everywhere by her attendant, Miss Lucy Haawk. She is often bullied by her proper mother who has no fondness for her and is obsessed with the prospect of marrying her off to the wealthiest suitor as soon as possible. Even though her father is away often, she is every inch his daughter and she hungers for intelligent conversation.
At the genesis of the story, Mrs. Claire Betherton (aunt to Miss Chetwynd) is hosting a party and all of a sudden a great deluge descends on all the guests. Everyone goes off running towards her aunt’s stately manor house of Betherton Hall. Annette has other ideas and she hastens over to distant chapel. Her mind and heart are swimming with thoughts of the handsome dark-haired Peter Adsley who has been championing the cause of William Wilberforce. While she sat around at the party, she heard the insipid and insulting conversation of the guests (who think nothing of gossiping about their hostess) but Mr. Adsley spoke so gallantly of the cause of abolition. Annette is not your typical young woman. She was educated exceedingly well by her father (one can even say akin to an education a young man of that time would receive) and petty conversation bores her.
As she enters the chapel, she runs into the gray-eyed and mysterious Sir Steven Likebridge. When he sees her, he attempts to attack the beautiful young Annette and she begins to feel faint from the experience. In what is a tragic and traumatic experience for Annette, she hears the voice of another man stepping in to save her. She soon blacks out but before she does so, she regards his face – the familiar dark hair and the brown eyes.
Following the attack, Annette is positively infatuated with her savior in the chapel. Even though he did save her, he promptly delivered Annette to her aunt’s home and he disappeared himself. All she has left of her savior is the image in her mind and the manifold drawings she sketches.
Peter Adsley is determined to be a clergyman and to marry a wife who is suitable for such a thing. He desires to glorify the Lord with his wife by his side and he has no other woman in sight but Miss Sylvia Betherton. While he doesn’t particularly love Miss Betherton, he certainly believes that she will be the perfect wife for him and that they could start a life together. She is the missing piece to his puzzle. Peter is so convinced of his idea that he speaks to his older brother, Richard about this. Where Peter is pious and kindhearted, Richard plays the part of the older son with his lazy indolence, his ability to rack up debt, and his cruelty.
It is set. Peter decides that he will propose to Sylvia and then they can start afresh. He is convinced that when they marry, he will finally fall in love with her. Mr. and Mrs. Betherton host another dinner party at Betherton Hall, inviting the entire Adsley family. Peter is preparing himself to propose to Sylvia until he is waylaid by a plucky young woman. This young woman is Annette and while he finds her beautiful, she doesn’t exactly fit into his vision of things. He is determined that he will marry Sylvia. Moments later, Mr. Betherton speaks and finally announces that Sylvia and Richard Ardsley (Peter’s older brother) are engaged. Peter is furious.
Thrown continually into the presence of Annette, Peter cannot help but fall for her. The two constantly have dialogue and their friendship grows with the possibility of something more. What will happen next? How does Sir Steven Likebridge fit in to all of this? Will Peter win Sylvia back from his brother?
Starving Hearts is Ms. Janine Mendenhall’s debut novel set in Regency England. Annette is not your conventional regency heroine and I found her rather difficult to connect with. At certain times, I found her unlikable. However, what I did like about Annette was her intelligence, her strong resolve to believe in a better world, and that she had an open mind. She had a mother who constantly sought to oppress and bully her but she always managed to maintain somewhat of a positive outlook. She proved numerous times that she put her faith in God. There was no redeeming quality about the character Mrs. Chetwynd and I found it hard to stomach that a mother would direct such cruelty towards her very own child. She was heartless and a shallow woman.
Peter Adsley on the other hand was a pleasant enough character. He reminded me a little of Mr. Edward Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility or Mr. Edmund Bertram from Mansfield Park. I liked his piety and his strength. What I failed to understand was his fixation with Miss Sylvia Betherton when Annette was in front of him. Sylvia doesn’t have the bubbly and outgoing personality that her cousin has.
All in all, I enjoyed the way that the author painted a scene and the description that she would go into. There were scenes in the book that were jarring and several twists that I didn’t particularly see coming. The mentioning of William Wilberforce and Mary Wollstonecraft was pretty interesting. I could definitely imagine a well-informed young woman like Annette reading a pamphlet by Wilberforce or Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication on the Rights of Women. The portrayal of the horrors of slavery while saddening was very well done in my opinion.
While this book really wasn’t my cup of tea, I definitely was fascinated by certain aspects. Ms. Janine Mendenhall definitely has promise and I am interested in seeing what she writes in the near future.
[This is an unbiased and truthful review in exchange for a free copy of Starving Hearts. A huge thanks to the Litfuse Group.]