Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.
Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?
Comment: Another one of the books by this author which I wanted to read until the end of the year.
In this story we meet Sophie Dupont, she is the daughter of a modest but able painter and she likes painting herself. Due to her father's work, she has met several artists and the latest one was Wesley Overtree, a man she couldn't help but like and after a long persuasion, she agreed to be his muse. Their relationship became more intimate but Sophie didn't have the possibility to warn Wesley she was pregnant before he decided to accept a journey to Italy, to spend time with more artists, and the note he left her was certainly not the loving one she would have welcomed, thus leaving her in a terrible position. Then, Wesley's brother comes up to solve the last of his brother's affairs and by learning of this situation, decides to do the right thing and marry Sophie. It appears everyone will gain something from this, but what about when Wesley returns, sooner than expected, and with the intention of going back to his affair with Sophie?
This author always puts her characters through complicated situations and being this a Christian book, of course faith and prayer count a lot when it comes to help the characters follow the right choices. I don't mind this detail for to me, the best part of the books is the relationships developed between characters and the situations they must deal with. I'd say, though, that the author does stay away from some more...intense show of emotions to suit the preferences of her target audience, and what a pity... some things just needed some more passion - I don't mean sexual - in how everyone acts and reacts.
Sophie is a likable character in the sense she sees herself in a difficult situation. I think this must have happened a lot more than what one imagines when thinking about the 19th century society but as always, women weren't alone in getting into such a situation...in fact, lacking other ways of surviving, how often unfairness happened...anyway, Sophie has a chance encounter with Wesley's brother and finds a way to at least mitigate her worries. Of course it's a coincidence Wesley left her a note which never arrived, otherwise the plot might have been different but I think things played out well enough for the conflicts to be believable.
The big conflict is that both Wesley and his brother Stephen like Sophie. In slightly different ways - they met her in very opposite circumstances - but both want her to be with them and we must see if she should choose the man she married but with whom she didn't have prior emotional commitments, or the man she believed she was in love with but that she couldn't rely on when it was necessary. At some point, and here I applaud the author, I was doubtful how things would proceed, especially if one thinks that this is a Christian story and who knows how the redemption issue would be used?
Sophie is, like I said, a likable heroine but at times it felt as if she was a little too naive... I understand why this is so, she does embody some kind of innocence, but it made it more difficult to accept she wouldn't be angrier in some moments. Stephen is a good hero but, in my opinion, he wasn't as developed as other characters, perhaps because he spends part of the novel away from the core group of characters, but he lacked some more impact. Wesley is easier to read, even though there were scenes where I had my doubts on his reputation.
Another detail I wish the author had planned a little better was the pace and length of the story. Some situations dragged on too much, were described for too long and took forever to be solved. I suppose the aim was to allow tension, to create stress to better reason options the characters eventually take, but there were chapters I felt a little bored reading. There's also this sense, which I got in pretty much all books by the author I've read so far, that the plot could be taken to an even more pivotal degree but the author doesn't really make waves... perhaps in association with the "clean" label.
With this I mean the author could have different wording, different levels of intensity to every thing (even without any intimate or sexual scene, that's not the point) but it's as if the character never really reach the highest peak of their possibilities if one thinks about character study. I would say perhaps the stories would feel even more vivid with a few small changes or improvements.