The Brazen Bluestocking
by Tracy Sumner
Tracy Sumner is one of my favorite authors of historical fiction, combining compelling characters, unique storylines, and a luxuriant writing style. I’ll confess that when I open one of her books, I wonder if it will be the first of them to not meet my expectations. Well, “The Brazen Bluestocking” not only met my expectations, it exceeded them in every way. This is the first book in ‘The Duchess Society’ series. If you haven’t read the prequel yet, “The Ice Duchess”, it won’t affect your enjoyment of this book. If you have read that, you’ll recognize some of the secondary characters in this story, as well as the brazen bluestocking herself, Lady Hildegard Templeton.
Hildy is a woman trapped by gender, lack of financial resources, and her dead father’s bad reputation. Her own intelligence and her independent spirit are scorned by a society with strict expectations and cold restrictions. No longer a naïve young debutante and lacking a dowry, Hildy also has no family. She’s given up on her dream of marrying for love and instead dreams of having enough money to put food on the table and maintain her shabby home. She is partners in a business created to help young women enter into marriage as prepared as possible to protect their own futures. Hildy is hired by a nobleman to help improve Tobias, the man who is his daughter Matilda’s scandalous choice of husband. She must guide the wealthy ‘King’ of the underbelly of London in an attempt to make him somehow socially acceptable. Once she meets the man, she has to figure out a way to ignore the powerful attraction she feels towards him.
“Words crowded her throat, melted on her tongue. Thought melted into sensation along with them. She was lightheaded, drunk on his nearness and the thrill of touching him.”
Tobias Streeter is the unacknowledged, illegitimate son of a British peer and a beautiful gypsy woman. With his brilliant mind and his dashing good looks, he’s managed to amass a fortune that makes him among the wealthiest men in the nation. But his status at birth deprives him of any respectability. Love destroyed his mother and he has no intention of letting it anywhere near him. He just needs a strategic marriage that will give him enough social capital to let him achieve his most cherished dream. A marriage of convenience to Matilda Is the perfect solution. But then he meets Hildy, and nothing is clear anymore.
“Frankly, it was her smile that killed him. Measured, subtle, and almost hesitant – but when it broke, it broke. Wicked and alluring, as glorious as a blazing sunset you weren’t expecting that you caught sight of around a bend in the road.”
Both main characters are beautifully, painfully real. As the layers of the story effortlessly unfold, Hildy and Tobias are each revealed to be unique and endearing, perfectly imperfect and so very memorable. The chemistry between them just about shimmers in the air around the words as you read. Secondary characters add depth and humor to the story, and various interactions between all the characters magnify the impact of the book. Beyond being a great love story, this is a story about the power of resilience, honor, friendship, and respect. I can’t wait to read the next book in this outstanding series!