Never have I felt such a connection with the Regency era! Camille Elliott tells the multilayered historical mystery and romance of the musically talented Alethea (I immediately recognized this as a twist on the Greek word for truth, aletheia; great choice for a name!), a middle-society violinist who possesses a rare and valuable violin. At the age of 28, she’s already considered nearly a spinster. Elliott does a beautiful job of gently introducing Alethea and her background; she’s a strong-willed woman who is willing to love despite her difficult history. Alethea’s father and brother are deceased, and we don’t find out why until later. The cast of characters is a broad, well-developed spectrum; Bayard hides a secret pain; his two friends jump off the page as successful male musicians and good, jocular friends always spoiling for a fight. Lucy, Alethea’s half-sister, is employed as a maidservant and is always ready to come to Alethea’s aid. The villains are described so clearly I felt I could see them lurking in the woods, waiting for their opportunity. Alethea’s relative, Margaret, is a scamp of a 12-year-old, dreaming of pirates and fairytales.
Elliott’s villains and plot complications have real teeth. No mere risk of not marrying, being penniless or just being publicly disgraced here, as other Austen-esque novels are wont to do. No, Elliott’s villains kidnap, attack and murder their own spouses! In this story, the unpredictability of what will happen next keeps you hooked.
I particularly enjoyed the multiple layers of mysteries wound within this story. How were Alethea’s fingers broken? How did her father and brother die? What is it that her Aunt Ebena regrets? What prevents the handsome, wealthy Bayard from marrying? And most crucial to the plot, what is the provenance and history of her enigmatic, melodious and old violin? Elliott wisely weaves these stories together, so that it’s difficult to separate the threads or know which clues belong to which mystery.
For me, one who does not frequently read Regency-era stories, it was a surprisingly smooth slide into the times. Every now and then a word tripped me up, such as ton (society) or landau (carriage) or my favorite, abigail (a lady’s maidservant, and its etymology revealed that this word is from the Biblical Abigail who was hospitable to King David and later married him). I was glad to read it on my iPad so I could highlight new words and look up their definitions.
More surprising than the new vocabulary were the notions that women were discouraged from playing the violin. Having read one or two Austen novels, I thought fine ladies were taught instruments the pianoforte and singing as part of a normal education. Apparently the violin was scandalous to play, for it revealed too much arm and arm movement! As a violinist myself, I was very surprised to imagine a time where that was thought true!
Finally, the story has a Christian message. Both of the main characters, Bayard and Alethea, grow significantly in their relationship and reliance upon the Lord. The Bible verses are mentioned at just the right moments and seem organic. The message is scripturally-sound; God will always be with us, even though He doesn’t promise life will be easy. I think this story would be really great for someone who can connect with a heroine who is musical, or someone who has come through great trials and isn’t sure of God’s presence in their lives.
I heartily recommend this beautiful, musical story of “Prelude for a Lord.” It’s a fantastic choice for anyone who enjoys a music, romance, the Regency era, and mystery. It’s a clean story that still has real life complications and issues.
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.