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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.