The Portrait

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
344 Pages
Reviewed on 06/11/2019
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Author Biography

Cassandra Austen writes slow-burn, literary romances set in Old England and New England. She fled a life in the fast lane of banking and diplomacy and retreated to her 1780s farmhouse in northern New England to write, think, and raise four homeschooled children. Cassandra writes about strong, independent women who need to use their own strength and smarts to overcome the hand that life has dealt them. Her second novel, Coming Home to Greenleigh, will be out in summer 2019.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Heather Stockard for Readers' Favorite

Captain Jocelyn Avebury and Lady Catherine Claverton have absolutely nothing in common. He is a sailor in the Royal Navy and is of dubious parentage. She is the bitter daughter of an earl who needed a son but only got a crippled girl. Her mother died when she was young and her father, denied an heir and repulsed by Catherine’s badly twisted leg, sent her away to live on her own at age ten. Consequently, Catherine has grown up strong and independent and, against her father’s wishes, joined society in Bath. It is there she meets Avebury, a handsome sea captain with a mysterious past. The death of Catherine’s father brings to light a secret inheritance left to her by her mother. Catherine is the heir to an earldom in Wales. If she marries and bears a son, he will be an earl. Determined to save her mother’s family line, she proposes marriage to the wealthy Avebury. But suspicion, lies, and a murder investigation come between them. Love may not be enough to save them from the ghosts of the past.

The Portrait is beautifully written with interesting, intelligent characters and a captivating storyline. Catherine is a fascinating leading lady, quite unlike most romantic heroines. She is all contradictions: crippled but independent, strong but insecure, bitter but vulnerable. Avebury too is a well-rounded character. Cassandra Austen captures the atmosphere of eighteenth-century England quite brilliantly. Her descriptions of the people and the places are evocative, bringing to life her characters and settings. This book is a must-read for lovers of historical romance.

K.C. Finn

The Portrait is a work of historical and mystery fiction penned by author Cassandra Austen. Our central heroine is Lady Catherine Claverton, who is stripped of her position as a child and denied the earldom of the Claverton name because of her gender. But an opportunity to return to high society presents itself when Catherine is grown and her father dies because her mother’s title is still valid. Choices between husbands can be complicated enough, but each of the men Catherine could choose is holding a dark secret. And Catherine, as it turns out, has an even darker secret of her own that she must hide.

I liked the diversity of the situation for a Regency novel, as our heroine Catherine is born with a lame leg which puts her at even further a disadvantage in society. Author Cassandra Austen weaves some clever modern sensibilities into a classic tale, still giving it that Jane Austen atmosphere but with a strong female lead and ideas of ambition and independence that were desirable, but less common at the time of the book’s setting. The character development of the male leads was suitably deep for the style of story, and I enjoyed their secrets being slowly revealed so that the reader can enjoy the mystery along with Catherine. The more I read of Austen’s sharp and engaging prose, the more I was swept into an authentically beautiful yet flawed world of high society, with cinematic descriptions and engaging dialogue that make The Portrait a highly recommended read.

Maria Beltran

The Portrait by Cassandra Austen is a historical fiction novel that unravels in the quiet town of Bath, England in the early 19th century. Beautiful and smart, Lady Catherine Claverton is to the manor born but there is one problem; she is a woman. Banished by her father to Bath, the lonesome Catherine is bored and angry and she has an ugly secret. Upon her father's death, however, she finds out that on her mother's side she is an heir to a family title. This means she can turn her life around, take her rightful place in the world, marry, and even have children to continue her line. Two very interesting gentlemen have caught her attention but both men have secrets of their own too. Will Catherine find the happiness she's looking for?

Cassandra Austen's The Portrait is an intriguing novel set in England in an era when being a woman means you have to defer to the men in your family. This is especially true in aristocratic families where women are generally not allowed to inherit the family title. Most women of this era accepted their fate but not Lady Catherine. A strong woman with unorthodox ideas, she finds herself in a situation where the definition of propriety and trust is being challenged. Author Cassandra Austen brings us back to this age and it is a beautiful experience. With vivid descriptions and witty dialogues, The Portrait could make the reader forget that he or she is now living in the internet age as they journey back to the 1800s when life was just as complicated but in completely different ways.

Ankita Shukla

The Portrait by Cassandra Austen is a book written in Jane Austen's style and executed with a similar perfection. The story is set in the late 18th century. It revolves around Lady Catherine Claverton and the choices that she made. Her father, an earl, always wanted a son; however, that was not meant to be. When he was blessed with a child who was not only a girl but also a crippled child, the Earl chose to ignore her altogether. He moved Catherine far away from her childhood home and never treated her with the love and affection that every daughter deserves. His mean actions took a toll on the free-spirited Catherine. When the Earl became bedridden, she decided to get married before he died. Nevertheless, her decision was driven more by her desire to take revenge on her father than anything else. As the news of her father's deteriorating condition spread, she found herself in the middle of a love triangle: her best friend, Lyle Barrington, and Captain Jocelyn Avebury. Although she had known Lyle Barrington for years, she found herself more inclined towards Captain Avebury, a man whom she knew only for a few days. There was something about Jocelyn that made her feel at ease, but he had a troubled past that he was quite secretive about. On top of all that, Catherine had quite a few secrets of her own.

I enjoyed everything about The Portrait by Cassandra Austen. Her characters are strong-willed, compassionate, secretive, honorable, deceiving, and very complex in nature. Lyle Barrington is the most complex of them all. He is neither all good nor all bad, and that is precisely what makes him the most unpredictable and amusing character. Captain Avebury's dilemma in choosing the sea, something that he believes to be the love of his life, and Catherine, a woman whom he cannot ignore, is well portrayed. Catherine's character has been painted flawlessly. She dreams of absolute freedom and does not let her bad leg stop her from fulfilling her desire. She is the strongest character, in my opinion. She does not let her duties prevent her from living her life to the fullest. Once she makes up her mind, there is no stopping her. I admire the author for creating a woman with such a glorious personality, one who is beautiful inside and out. The Portrait starts at a slow, yet intriguing pace, and soon holds its reader's undivided attention. There are so many twists and secrets. As a reader, I found myself unable to think about anything other than the story before reaching the climax. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy books in Jane Austen's writing style, with strong characters, and an intriguing plot.

Michelle Robertson

Lady Catherine was deceived and cheated out of her right to the ancient Claverton earldom when, as a child, she was sent away to be forgotten about - all because she was not a male heir - only to learn later in her life about her family secrets. Could she live the life that was taken away from her? Jocelyn, a captain in the Royal Navy, is sent home to await a trial due to a crime committed during his adventures at sea. Can a ship's captain and a young woman of noble descent, both sharing secrets of a troubled childhood, end up living happily ever after together or will their secrets and pasts be too destructive and toxic for a relationship?

The Portrait is written by Cassandra Austen, not to be confused with the famous Jane Austen, but similarities in their writing techniques can be found within this story. Cassandra Austen offers her readers a historical fiction novel with a twisting, page-turning plot and well-developed characters. The main characters, however, seem to be rather different than what would be typical in that time period. This aspect of the characters' personalities makes the story more realistic. One can imagine that there were people back then who were not as strict in adhering to society's set rules. The author allows the main characters to be a bit childish, silly, or relaxed, if you will, making them more relatable and intriguing. A very entertaining novel that readers of historical fiction or historical romance will enjoy.