Title ~ The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor
Author ~ Katherine Marlowe
Publisher ~ HoneyWine Publishing
Published ~ 9th December 2015
Genre ~ Historical M/M Romance
Algernon Clarke risked everything investing in new technologies, but the collapse of his investments has brought him to the brink of ruin. Just when he thinks debtor’s prison is inevitable, he receives a visit from Mr. Sutton, railway solicitor, with paperwork to indicate that Algernon is the long-lost heir of Wealdhant Manor. The railway needs a portion of Wealdhant lands in order to lay their locomotive tracks, and Algernon is in no position to look a gift horse in the mouth. He accepts the inheritance at once, heading off to settle the railway’s affairs.
The situation he finds in distant Lincolnshire is far more complex than he was led to believe, and Algernon is soon at odds with the gruffly handsome groundskeeper whom the village folk refer to as “Lord Jasper.” As the railway’s deadline approaches, Algernon struggles to forge an alliance with Jasper Waltham, to protect the people of the village, and to make peace with the restless ghosts of Wealdhant Manor. Clean romance, no cheating, standalone novel.
This jolly romp of an historical romance set during the boom years of mid-Victorian technological speculation is made for me by the characters of the two protagonists.
At the beginning of the story poor Algernon has fallen prey to a bogus speculator who has absconded with all Algernon’s money and that of a load of other people, leaving him in dire straits, surrounded by creditors and expecting a knock on the door from the bailiff to cart him off to debtors’ prison. His only comfort is the support of his very loyal valet, Cullen, upon whose charity he is currently living. So when Sutton, a solicitor, appears claiming to represent one of the new railway companies and claiming that he has discovered that Algie is the heir to a respectable property across which the railway needs to extend its track, it all seems like a gift from Heaven.
Algernon is a sweet-natured chap, boundlessly enthusiastic, and well-brought up despite what have been quite a hard life. Algernon’s mother was Indian and Victorian society was not at all accepting unless the person was blessed with a lot of money. Now Algernon is destitute he has no choice but to grab this too good to be true chance with both hands and embrace his new status as the heir to the Allesbury estate.
So off he goes to the bleak Lincolnshire manor of Wealdhant. How would you say that? I’ve tried and it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue so I’m betting that, just as Leominster is pronounced Lemster, the locals have contracted it to something more like Weelunt.
Enter Jasper Waltham of the village of Wilston, the closest community to Wealdhant. Jasper has been in charge of maintaining the grounds of the manor, though he had decided that the manor house was not his business. Although the house is now in disrepair the gardens are productive and the tenant farmers well cared for. Jasper is known to all as Lord Jasper and is fiercely protective of the manor and all its inhabitants. Over the years his duty of care has turned into something far more proprietorial and so, of course, he is appalled to hear that a new owner of the estate has arrived, even though at first sight he finds Algernon strangely appealing. Jasper is straight as a die, apart from in one vital respect, and always does the right thing.
The rest of the book concerns the antagonism of the two young ‘lords’, how it eases into mutual respect and desire then back into contention as Jasper fights to preserve the comfortable traditions of the village while Algernon is all for progress at any cost, especially if it keeps him out of jail. There is also an entertaining paranormal subplot that develops to impact on the rest of the story.
The author’s obviously extensive research is displayed with a light hand and I really enjoyed some of the details of the railway development. I was a bit less comfortable with how accepting everyone seemed to be of the protagonists’ relationship, but this tolerance left them free to angst about other things instead and they do have a lot to angst about, not least a bit of growing up.
So a good fun read, with enough period detail to interest a history buff and a sweet love story between engaging lovers to satisfy the romantics.
Meet Katherine Marlowe
Katherine "Kitty" Marlowe is a writer of m/m historical romance novels and novellas. She has a degree in Classical history with a specialization in LGBTQ history, and can very easily be distracted into lengthy discussions on marginalized orientations and gender identities in dozens of different historical eras and subcultures.
When she isn't writing novels and novellas about handsome men smooching and living happily ever after, she is usually baking, hiking, or fighting eldritch deities in Arkham.