On the eve of the French Revolution, Countess Bettina de Jonquiere flees to England with the help of a family servant, the only man she can trust. With her father dead, and separated from her mother with no idea if they will ever see each other again, she travels to Bath.
Bettina has been entrusted with a packet of documents which she is told will aid the Royalists, but when she arrives in England, there is no one to meet her. Worse, the envelope she’s secreted all the way is empty.
Penniless and stranded, she meets a brash young woman who convinces Bettina to travel with her to Cornwall, promising a job at the local Inn. Horrified at the prospect but with no alternative, Bettina enters a life of unrelenting drudgery, but finds warmth and companionship in the simple women she works with.
The locals tend to treat her with suspicion, especially the men, whose unwanted attentions Bettina does her best to avoid. The local squire has a nephew who requires a tutor, so Bettina applies to teach him to supplement her tiny income, hoping to save enough to reach London and find her mother.
Her friends at the inn tell Bettina that Everett Camborne, her employer murdered his wife, but he is the last person Bettina can question on the truth of this rumour. As time passes, Bettina’s regard for Everett makes her doubt he could be a murderer and though she fights her feelings, she falls in love with this tortured, silent aristocrat who shows her nothing but kindness.
However not everything is simple, for Bettina discovers the problems associated with Everett’s past predict a doubtful future for them both. He is not free to marry until he proves his wife dead, and their problems increase when Bettina falls pregnant.
With a ruthless brother-in-law out to ruin their happiness for his own gain, Everett is faced with the prospect of losing a nephew he loves to the boy’s uncaring father.
Bettina too has her share of problems, in that she is being stalked by revolutionaries who believe she knows the whereabouts of a fortune left by her father. Everett swears his undying devotion, but in order to protect their future life, he has to put himself in some danger.
Diane Scott Lewis’s debut novel is wonderfully researched and the reader is taken right into the drawing rooms, kitchens and taverns of the dark days of late eighteenth century England. Her recipe for lemon puffs is mouth-watering, and I was quite disappointed when they ended up in a well.
The author’s talent for making everyday conversations interesting draws the reader in, as do Bettina’s longing for her homeland, lost to her through no fault of her own.
This is a historical romance, but so much more in that Ms Scott Lewis delves into her character’s souls and makes them jump out of the page. The story finishes on something of a question, so readers will be delighted to learn that the sequel, ‘Without Refuge’ is well on its way. I for one cannot wait to read that book too and find out what life has in store for Bettina and her family.
‘The False Light’ released on April 7th by Eternal Press. To find out more about Diane Scott Lewis, please visit her website.