“Why are boys more valued than girls, do you think?” Jewel asked an older woman.

“Rich folks about carrin’ on the name. We poor need sons because we can send them out to work earlier than girls. And they’re paid more.”

Jewel gave her a sidelong look.

Mrs. Fenton shrugged. “Life’s hard, if you ain’t noticed.”

It is 1884 in Birmingham, England. You lose your job as a seamstress. The only way you can support yourself is to get another job. Work is scarce.

Problems arise. You have caused a fellow worker to lose his job because you are protecting your child. You must flee. With the help of your friends you are directed to a small village to find refuge. You find you are landing in the midst of trouble. The vicar is having marital problems. He soon gets sick and needs the help of his estranged son who is a doctor.

Meanwhile Jewel is able to find employment as a caretaker for the squire who suffers from apoplexy and can’t speak. He can only watch as his nephew, Donald, drives a wedge between the townsfolk who want to help. He waits for his uncle to die and leave him the money to pay off his gambling debts. But Donald must pretend to aid his uncle.

“I shall die of boredom! Donald thought, pacing the library rug.

“Aside from a few current magazines, nothing but ponderous old books. The conservatory was quite pleasant for sitting and smoking Gold Flake cigarettes, but a man could not spend all his hours so engaged. The stables still boasted four fine horses, but he did not ride saddle, a secret he guarded closely.”

A widow in those days had no protection. The best she could hope for was that she could find refuge. Jewell does through the kindness of a close friend. Soon she is able to get a position as a caretaker for the squire when Donald decides she is someone he can manipulate. So he hires her to just watch the squire. In doing so, he can appear to care for his uncle. This will allow him to continue his out of control lifestyle.

The characters are well drawn and you feel like they are the people next door.

Blackwell handles the many subplots well. It is a good historical period piece. There is a hint of romance. But what can a person like Jewell, poor, dependent, trusting do? The main emphasis in this book is the greed that Donald shows contrasted to the selfless servitude of Jewell. She takes care of the squire with no thought of reward. Donald on the other hand pretends to care for his uncle but he is not caring at all. In the end, Donald loses everything, the will gives him so very little, and Jewell gains a husband, a reward far greater than anything the squire could have left her.

This is a book for the romantic, and there are lots of us out there.

Author Lawana Blackwell has 11 published novels to her credit. She has a Web site you can visit at www.lawanablaackwell.com.

This book can be purchased at your local bookstore or on line at www.bethanyhouse.com.

Valentine’s Day is here. Did you remember to get your sweetheart something special? If not, on Monday you will be in the dog house. Meanwhile keep on reading and you can contact the “best looking book reviewer” in Santa Monica at smdp_review@yahoo.com.

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