Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson
ISBN: 9781629728476 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781629739953 (ebook)
ASIN: B08WJT83XR (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B093K2MQ7X (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Release Date: May 4, 2021
Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.
However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.
Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.
“Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them.”— Library Journal
“Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England.”— Foreword Reviews
“Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson’s debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart.”— Booklist
Read an excerpt:
Two weeks into their marriage, Isabelle believed she understood exactly what was expected of her, and what she could expect in return. It was not what her mother had led her to suppose.
Alexander was polite, if cold, and exceedingly busy. It appeared to Isabelle that their marriage had changed his daily routine very little. In the city, he woke early and breakfasted alone before walking the four blocks to his mill, where he spent his days overseeing the workings that remained a mystery to Isabelle. When he arrived home for supper, he spoke little of his work, and Isabelle cast about for any topic of conversation they’d not scratched the days before.
Trouble was, there was very little for her to offer.
Welcome home, Mr. Osgood, she could imagine herself saying. Dinner is served as you requested. I spent the day managing your small staff of servants who are fully capable of managing themselves, waiting for visitors to appear, nodding and smiling at people who passed the parlor window, and staring at the supremely masculine decorations on the walls.
As a result, dinner was a quiet affair. Every evening.
After dinner, the couple retired upstairs. Separately. This part was far from what Isabelle’s mother had led her to anticipate. Not that she’d spoken of specifics. But Isabelle had arrived at certain ideas, and her current reality did not reflect them in the least. Isabelle knew she had nothing of which to complain, except that every day, she felt the burden of loneliness and yearned for a friend with whom to commiserate. She understood that what was missing was someone who wanted to talk with her.
Edwin, home at the Lakes, would have replaced her within a month. It was so easy for him to take anyone into his confidence. He would certainly have found a friend with whom to talk and listen and laugh.
Isabelle spent an hour each morning writing letters. She wrote to her mother, informing her of the duties she performed, the sights she saw in the city, and the food she ate. These letters spoke of dirt and fish and household management. She took care to add enough detail to create a picture of fulfillment. She wrote to Ed, reminding him of childhood escapades and telling him how she missed his laugh. She wrote to her old governess, thanking her for teaching her all she needed to know in order to fill her days with meaning. After two weeks of writing such letters, she had not yet posted one.
A gentle knock on the door prompted Isabelle to look up from yet another letter she would not send. Mrs. Burns, the housekeeper, stepped inside the drawing room and said, “Pardon, ma’am, but have you a moment?”
“Is there a problem?” Isabelle could not keep the excitement from her voice. Perhaps there had been trouble at the market and the menu would need to be remade. Or an issue with the ordering of candles. Her hands came together in anticipation of being permitted to fix something.
Mrs. Burns shook her head. “Not any problem, ma’am. You have a caller.” She handed a card to Isabelle, who felt the air rush out of her lungs.
Company. A visitor. Precisely what she had been waiting for. Why did she now dread that for which she had so long hoped?
Without even reading the name on the card, Isabelle rushed to the writing table and straightened her papers, then ran her hands down her dress to make herself unwrinkled and presentable.
When Mrs. Burns next opened the door, she ushered in a short, round, bald man dressed impeccably in a blue tailcoat. “Mr. Lester Kenworthy, ma’am.”
Isabelle rose from the chair she had taken only seconds before.
Mr. Kenworthy shook his head and blustered toward her. “Oh, please, sit. No ceremony is needed between us. I only wanted to come and meet the new Mrs. Osgood. Your Alec would have you kept a tight secret from us all, and we can’t have that, can we?” He said all this in a cheerful waterfall rush of words as he pumped her hand with both of his. “Lovely, if I may say so. Lovely.”
His words were masked in an accent so sharp that she found herself startled that she’d understood him. The proximity of Cumbria to Lancashire had given her no reason to believe there would be such a disparity in inflection. But this man’s vowels seemed utterly shuffled and remade. Delight danced through his articulation.
“I am the business manager at Osgood Mills and pleased as can be to see you. I thought if I came and made myself known to you, we could get you into a room with my wife and daughter. Fast friends, I’m sure you’ll be.”
Isabelle nodded and gestured to a chair. Mr. Kenworthy sat, laughing and bumbling about the loveliness she added to the room. Certainly he’d been there before and could tell that nothing had changed since it was the drawing room of a bachelor.
When he stopped for a breath, Isabelle realized she’d not said a word since Mr. Kenworthy entered the room. “It is a pleasure to meet you, sir, and I’d be honored to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Kenworthy and your daughter.” Isabelle blushed to realize that she’d taken on some of the tilting vowels of his accent.
He must have heard it as well because he reached for her hand again and laughed. “We’ll make a local of you in no time, sure enough. Would your schedule permit you to take tea at our home tomorrow?”
Isabelle had only seconds to determine if accepting this unexpected invitation would be wise. What would Alexander say? In fact, she was fairly sure Alexander would say nothing, as he said nothing on practically every matter.
“Mr. Kenworthy, I am delighted to say that I have no standing appointments for tomorrow. I’d be very glad to come.”
“Lovely, lovely.” He’d repeated the same word so many times that Isabelle was certain it would forevermore sound correct only when spoken in his Lancashire accent. He stood and pumped her hand again. She wasn’t sure that hand-shaking was the proper greeting of the moment, but it felt so wonderful to have someone reaching for her that she returned the squeeze to his fingers. Her smile was genuine as she thanked him for his visit.
Excerpt from Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson.
Copyright © 2021 by Rebecca Anderson. Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing.
Meet The Author
Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.
High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.