A friend's newspaper advertisement for a groom nets the most famous actor in London, Arthur Bex. Shy heiress Ester Croome proposes to elope with the handsome man, who she's secretly loved for two years, in order to escape an impending engagement arranged by her overbearing family.
Trying to outlive the shadow of his villainous uncle, Bex needs to marry quickly—to a woman of good character. And smart, beautiful Ester fits the bill. But a harrowing trip to Gretna Green and dangerous abolition rallies prove to be a more treacherous stage than either imagined. Infatuation and a mutual love for Shakespeare might not be enough to bind a couple looking to outrun the chains and secrets of family and the past.
On the whole, I enjoyed reading this book but there were some things that felt too forced, too coincidental to feel right and natural. I really liked the characters though, female characters with an inner strength and confidence, strong flawed male characters that are essentially good and trustworthy despite their faults and weaknesses. The heroine's fixation on someone she had never really met but just, well, fan-girled over Regency style was a bit irritating though, all circumstances considered.
This book is set in 1820, at a time when the British anti-slavery movement had led to the passing of a Bill for the abolition of the slave trade 15 years prior but the fight to abolish the slave trade in other countries as well was still underway. The so-called blackamoors had been a part of the English society for ages then but even those with money and power still weren't fully accepted by society in the 1800s.
This is a subject not often mentioned in historical romances so this was as unexpected as the hero's involvement with the abolitionists and the dangers he faces due to this involvement. No change ever came without sacrifices and people willing to fight for it. I loved that this book draws attention to this time and the people of color in those times and their struggles to be accepted.
All in all, this is a book that kept me entertained and interested, made me look up and google things so I enjoyed reading it despite the fact that some things weren't completely convincing.