Anthologies can be great fun, and provide great reading, when they are well executed. Such is the case with The Diamonds Of Welbourne Manor, a connected anthology about the scandalous Fitzmanning clan, written by three friends and fellow Harlequin Historical authors. The authors provide everything one would expect in a full-length story. A fully realized setting, plenty of history, several characters the reader comes to care about, all while providing three romances and dividing it up in anthology format. It’s a tall order, and they pull it off to marvelous effect.
Justine And The Noble Viscount by Diane Gaston
Gerald Brenner’s mother abandoned her first husband and son when she fell in love with the Duke of Manning. It was quite a scandal, especially since the Duke and Brenner’s mother had several illegitimate children and only married four months ago….after spending 20 years as lovers. Now the Duke and Duchess are dead, and Brenner is left with the task of telling his half-siblings that they are gone. There’s also the small matter that he has been appointed their guardian.
Justine Savard is the illegitimate daughter of the Duke and his French lover (for those keeping track – that makes Brenner and Justine step-siblings). She has lived at Welbourne manor for many years, and is the steadying force to her more rambunctious siblings. So when Brenner breaks the news that the Duke and Duchess are dead, it’s her job to help pick up the pieces. Now if she could just keep her mind off the distracting presence of Viscount Brenner.
Justine and Brenner both have suitable amounts of baggage. Brenner, still stung over his mother’s abandonment, has no desire to be the guardian to the scandalous Fitzmannings . Justine has resigned herself to a life as a spinster, having been suitably ruined and with having no attractive suitors on the horizon. These two are a perfect fit, and their romance progresses at a lovely pace. However, given Brenner’s place in society, and his disapproving father, I couldn’t help but wonder why there weren’t more objections to the romance.
Guardian to the unconventional and newly orphaned Fitzmannings is not a role that brooding Gerald Brenner relishes. But Justine, the illegitimate daughter who strives to hide her shame, calls powerfully to something deep within him…
Read an excerpt here.
Annalise and the Scandalous Rake by Deb Marlowe
Ned Milford is a member of society, but lives a double-life drawing scandalous caricatures lampooning the ton. He befriends two of the Fitzmanning boys and is rewarded when he’s invited to a house party. Surely there will be plenty of gossip fodder to be had at the notorious Welbourne Manor, and he’ll be drawing for months to come! However, upon his arrival he meets the quiet, observant Annalise Fitzmanning, an accomplished artist. Too bad society is hung up on her being a female to notice just how talented she truly is.
Annalise is quickly smitten with Ned, who she sees as a bit of a kindred spirit. However, she doesn’t know a thing about his double-life and given that the Fitzmannings are routinely gossiped and written about in the scandal sheets, it’s highly unlikely she will approve of his profession.
This was my favorite story of the bunch, because Annalise is my favorite type of heroine. The kind of heroine who the other characters tend to underestimate, but who has a backbone forged in steel. Ned is her perfect foil, and naturally when it hits the fan, with secrets tumbling out, he does everything in his power to win back her trust.
House party guest Ned Milford can see the inner passion and beauty that Annalise Fitzmanning hides. But how close should they become when his reason for being at Welbourne Manor would prompt a society scandal, not a society marriage!
Read an excerpt here.
Charlotte and the Wicked Lord by Amanda McCabe
Charlotte Fitzmanning has had a crush on Lord Andrew Bassington since she was a young girl. A friend of her brothers’, Drew was always part of their mischief, pranks, and teasing. She followed him around like a love sick puppy. However, time has passed. Drew’s older brother is dead, and he’s now charged with looking after his sickly mother, widowed sister-in-law, and young nephew. Fun, games and mischief are no more. However he accepts an invitation to the latest Welbourne Manor house party in the hopes of snaring a suitable wife. One who will help pave the way to a political career and be perfectly respectable on his arm. So how come he can’t get the high-spirited Charlotte out of his mind?
This is a nice story, although at times I think the author was trying to do a little too much. Besides Charlotte and Drew, the author sows the seeds for two other stories – one involving an eligible young lady, also a house guest, and Drew’s sister-in-law. Both intriguing tid -bits that I’m anxious to read more about, but it does take away page time from the romance at hand. That said, given that Charlotte and Drew already have a past together, it helps keep the story humming along and the final moment when they finally admit their love for each other really shines.
Charlotte may be the youngest Fitzmanning girl, but she knows her own mind-and she wants Lord Andrew Bassington! Drew requires an eminently proper bride, something free-spirited Charlotte has never been. So how can she make him see the beautiful woman she has become…?
Read an excerpt here.
I’ve never made a secret of my enjoyment of anthologies, but connected ones such as The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor are my favorite. It allows all of the authors quite a bit of freedom, and more opportunity for world-building. That’s what makes this anthology shine. I could see and feel Welbourne Manor. I got to know all of these characters, not just within the confines of their own stories. I fell for it hook, line and sinker, and here’s hoping that Gaston, Marlowe and McCabe haven’t permanently closed the book on the Fitzmanning clan.