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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

The End of an Era: A Review of A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Bears waving.
How's everyone doing today?

We’ve reached the end of our three-part series. How sad. I’ve had fun diving into the Whispers on the Moors trilogy. Truly, I have. And I hope you have too. I don’t read romance novels often, if ever, so it’s been fun to read something different these past few weeks. I’m sure we’ll be returning to our regularly scheduled programming of murder mysteries and horror real soon.

And with that, I bring you A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd.

Book cover of A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order; you’ve been warned. I also have a very quick content and trigger warning before we go on. There are brief, and I mean blink and you might miss it brief, mentions of abuse and alcoholism. These are basically a little footnote in the story, but I’m here to let you know they exist. With that, let’s get to the synopsis.

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall opens on a dark and stormy night. Sixteen-year-old Cecily Faire is planning on running away with the love of her life that night. Her abusive father catches her though and takes her far, far away to the Rosemere Home For Girls. She’s disowned and separated from her twin sister and the guy she’s in love with.

Broken heart gif.
Honestly heartbreaking.

Five years later, Cecily is now a teacher at Rosemere. She has no contact with anyone from her life before arriving at the school, she’s without much money, has no prospects, and is just generally stuck. Then a letter arrives. It’s from a former occupant of the school who went on to be a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall. The woman writing has recently gotten married and her employer, the elderly Mrs. Trent, is now in need of a new lady's companion. So Cecily sets off to become a Lady.

Willowgrove Hall is not what she expected. She’s told not to speak with any of the servants cause they’re beneath her. She’s also told by the old woman she works for that the manor’s steward, Nathaniel Stanton, is one of the worst people she’ll ever meet. Finally, on her first day at Willowgrove, Cecily runs into the man she had planned to run away with years prior. There’s a lot to unpack here, but the important thing to note is that Nathaniel Stanton is not a horrible person, he shows Cecily immense kindness, friendship, and generosity and is our male love interest; he simply has secrets. Just like Cecily. Will these two find each other? Will their secrets keep them apart? What even are their secrets?

Confused pug.
Hint, they're scandalous for the time.

I’m sorry, I really didn’t know how to fit Nathaniel in the synopsis exactly. This is Cecily’s story, Nathaniel is simply there. Truly, this is Cecily’s world and he’s just living in it. Love that for her.

Now let me tell you something about the Whispers on the Moors series. There is no consistency! Book one was ok. Two was trash. Three was pretty great. It kept me on my toes cause I never knew what to expect exactly. As a whole, I would not recommend the series. I would recommend book three though. It’s definitely my favorite out of them all.

Onto A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. I want to start with our main characters of Cecily and Nathaniel. They are a good couple in my eyes. There is reason for them to like one another and actually become a couple. This relationship develops naturally. They have more than five scenes together. They actually talk to each other. I know, it sounds like the bar is on the floor, but considering the last book had no plot and just thrust the main characters together, the bar has to be on the ground.

Thankfully, the couple this time around works and works well. They have a good meet cute involving a dog, those are the best types of meet cutes, and his family loves her. Sidenote, I love how quickly Cecily and one of Nathaniel’s sisters become friends. There’s no questioning it when they first meet, they see each other and decide they’re going to be friends; sometimes it do be that way.

Anyway, this is a very calm novel. Not much happens. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. While our two main characters both have secrets, there is no villain set on exposing the protagonists. The villain is actually internal struggle. I applaud the fact there is no stereotypical Regency villain running around making the main characters rue the day they arrived at Willowgrove. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall may not boast action packed scenes full of deception and schemes, but I don’t think they would have worked in this novel anyway. Internal conflict, if done well, can certainly make up for a flesh and blood villain. And I daresay it works in this case.

Woman clapping.
Good job.

The overarching theme of forgiveness also works really well. All the characters are your average, everyday people. They’ve made mistakes, done some things they aren’t proud of, they have their secrets, and are simply living their lives. Without knowing it, everyone is searching for forgiveness; both from others and from oneself. A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is the only book in the Whispers on the Moors series that has a theme this well done.

It's a good thing this book works as a standalone novel because I would never recommend the Whispers on the Moors series as a whole. I would definitely recommend this entry though. It’s a simple read with a believable love story and flawed characters. As summer time is approaching I would recommend this as a quick and easy beach read.

With that we’ve reached the end of our exploration into the Whispers on the Moors series. I appreciated getting to dive into something very different these past few weeks, but it’s time to go back to what I write best: listicles and self-deprecating humor. With that, I bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week as we begin our Pride Month celebration here on RHRML.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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