The Great Estate by Sherri Browning
Sourcebooks Casablanca: August 4, 2015 (Historical Romance)*
The Great Estate is a nice Edwardian-era historical romance and will attract romance readers who enjoy the “reunited” trope. Here, Gabriel and his countess, Sophia, have been separated for a year. After losing their baby son the two became somewhat estranged and when Gabriel caught Sophia kissing another man, it seemed that their marriage was over. Now, a year later Gabriel and Sophia have decided to give it another go having gained a little maturity in their time apart.
Unbeknownst to Sophia, her transgression (as innocent as it was) acted as a kick in the pants for Gabriel, who realizes that perhaps he shouldn’t have given his wife so much space after their son died. Naturally, Gabriel thinks haring off to Italy to develop some romantic skills is the answer to all his problems. Sophia, in turn, realizes that she really shouldn’t have listened to all the advice her mother gave her; she doesn’t need to always act in a certain way. But this raises the question, does Gabriel love the real Sophia or the woman that she has always pretended to be?
I really liked the idea behind The Great Estate. Gabriel and Sophia are a couple that married very young and as a result they’ve let others influence their relationship. Now that they’ve matured they are both in a different spot, but it means that their relationship must change. Sophia in particular has matured since the early days of her marriage; she’s much more independent and has a strong desire to be considered equal to her husband. Sophia’s care and management of her husband’s estate has given her a lot of satisfaction while her husband was away and now that he’s returned Sophia is determined to show him what she is capable of. The question is whether or not he’s willing to treat Sophia as the capable woman she is.
Complicating Gabriel and Sophia’s relationship is the appearance of a baby left on their doorstep. Naturally everyone jumps to the conclusion that this kid must be Gabriel’s – everyone but Gabriel himself. While I’m not opposed to having some tension injected into The Great Estate, I didn’t really find the use of a potential illegitimate child to be that effective. In general, I really found The Great Estate to be lacking in tension, which was okay when the focus was on the relationship between Gabriel and Sophia. There’s nothing wrong with a quiet, heartfelt romance (Mary Balogh is an author that does this really, really well). In the case of The Great Estate I thought that the added complications of the baby on the doorstep, the runaway servant, and Sophia’s added problems with Gabriel’s mother ended up taking away from the real romance between Gabriel and Sophia. Too much time was spent on resolving other issues in the story and not enough time was given to solving the problems in Gabriel and Sophia’s marriage. The balance between the romance plot and all the other stuff going on was not well executed, in my opinion. So, while I quite enjoyed the whole “reunited” trope, I really was looking for something a little more emotionally satisfying.
The Great Estate is a pleasant read and I loved the Edwardian period setting. That said, I will admit that it was not a memorable read for me. A tension and emotional depth between the hero and heroine left this one lacking in my mind.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
While Murder at the Brightwell isn’t technically a romance (it’s a definitely a mystery) I think readers will appreciate the romantic elements to this one. Amory is on the verge of leaving her neglectful husband when he shows up to help her solve a murder at a seaside resort. Like Gabriel and Sophia, Amory and Milo have drifted apart, perhaps crime fighting can save their marriage? See my full review here.
If you enjoyed the setting of The Great Estate, I think you’ll enjoy Sharon Page’s An American Duchess. The tension between Zoe and Nigel is similar to that of Gabriel and Sophia. Zoe wants her independence, Nigel is not completely inclined to give it. Perfect for fans of angsty romances.
Lastly, I think fans of The Great Estate will also like Sally MacKenzie’s Loving Lord Ash. While I didn’t completely love this one, it is likely to be the most similar to The Great Estate. Kit and Jessica, like Gabriel and Sophia, married young and a misunderstanding has kept them apart for years. Lighter in tone, but one that will appeal to fans of The Great Estate.