Can real love grow between a wallflower and an unrepentant rogue?
Sarah Drayton is eager to spend time with her best friend at her crumbling Northumberland castle estate. Matrimony is the last thing on her mind and the last thing she expects to be faced with on a holiday. Yet she finds herself being inveigled into a marriage of convenience with her friend’s rakish brother.
When James Langley returns to his family’s estate, he can’t be bothered to pay attention to his responsibilities as the heir. War is raging and he wants only distraction, not serious tethers. But his roguish ways have backed him into a corner, and he has little choice but to obey his father’s stunning decree: marry before returning to war, or else. Suddenly he finds himself wedded to a clever and capable woman he does not love.
Sarah craves love and a place to belong, neither of which James offered before returning to the battlefront. Now everyone around her thinks she married above her station, and they have no intention of rewarding her for such impertinence. It isn’t until her husband returns from war seemingly changed that she begins to hope they may find real happiness. But can she trust that this rake has truly reformed?
When tragedy strikes, this pair must learn to trust God and his plans. Will they be destroyed . . . or will they discover that even in the darkest depths of night, the morning still holds hope?
Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.
The Northumberland coast is a true beauty to behold. When I’m traveling on the East Coast Main Line train in Britain, I watch for that first glimpse of the North Sea. No matter the weather, the waves will crash against either rocks or sand depending on where you are. There are times when the rail tracks are so close to the edge you look down and see nothing but rugged cliffs and water. You’ll see little villages, fishing harbors, golf links, and ruins of old buildings. Further out, you can see historic locations such as Holy Island. I’m hooked every trip.
I wasn’t only drawn to Midnight’s Budding Morrow because of the setting. The castle on its cover immediately reminded me of Bamburgh Castle, which is perched on a volcanic outcrop and can be seen at a distance when on the train. In her author’s note, Carolyn Miller states she not only took inspiration for Langley House from the nearby ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, but also from the Kings Hall at Bamburgh Castle. A small side plot takes note of the area’s genuine Roman history as well.
Enough about the history of the location and the inspiration, however. What about the book itself?
Midnight’s Budding Morrow is primarily a Regency era romance. But the old house exudes creepiness with its closed-up rooms, and the plot takes a suspenseful turn towards the end. My first impression of James Langley is of a drunken lout, and not worthy of the Langley name. Of course, this is intentional by writer Miller. But I was surprised that Sarah would agree to marry him, or that either of them could be so powerless in the face of Langley senior, and the reason Sarah couldn’t return seemed fuzzy. I also felt the change in James’ behavior to be a little too much too soon. Yes, this is Christian fiction but I’m not sure any of my Christian friends changed that quickly. For many of us, it was a gradual process. While I wasn’t impressed with the romantic aspect of the novel, I did appreciate the gothic and suspense elements of the plot, as well as the description of the Northumbrian scenery and historical references.
Sarah’s mental state plays a large role in the story. She has depression and feels isolated. The women in her new social circle don’t appear to accept her, and the staff resent her change in status. I recognized some of her emotions and thoughts: she internalizes so much that she comes to believe she isn’t worthy and that no one wants her around. I especially understood the scene where even the dog chooses to be standoffish. When it seems there’s no way out for her, she makes a decision that some readers may find triggering.
Midnight’s Budding Morrow is the second of the Regency Wallflowers series, and I’m certain there’ll be a third. Both this title and the one before it – Dusk’s Darkest Shores – focuses on the repercussions of a failed British military expedition in the Netherlands which took place two years before the events of these books. The Walcheren Campaign is known not so much for the action on the battlefield but for the high casualty rate due to disease. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hero in the third book is a veteran of the same campaign.
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Publication Date: 31 May 2022
Carolyn Miller is an Inspirational Regency romance author who lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher.
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives.
She loves reading, music, films, gardens, art, travel and international food, and really enjoy creating worlds where flawed people can grow in faith, hope and love.
As I stated in my review, the front cover of Midnight’s Budding Morrow reminded me of Bamburgh Castle in northeastern England.
A number of fortifications have stood on the site the castle occupies, but most of what we see today is mostly from the 11th century. Before then, however, it became known as the Cradle of Christianity due to the presence of northern saints such as Oswald and Aidan. Their fortress eventually fell into disrepair and King William II turned it into a border garrison due to its proximity to the border with Scotland. Various monarchs utilized the location until the Wars of the Roses. At that point, Bamburgh became the first castle in England to be destroyed by gunfire.
In 1610, the castle passed into private hands. Sadly, the cost of upkeep quickly became too much and it became an uninhabitable ruin. By the time of Midnight’s Budding Morrow, however, restoration was underway.
Win a copy of Midnight’s Budding Morrow and be carried away to the wild Northumberland coast. Click on the graphic to enter.