Thanks to her patron and great architect, John Nash, Belle Stirling is a rising star in the homes of London’s fashionable elite. Even the prince regent wants her elegant, high quality fabrics used in the decoration of his new palace, Brighton Pavilion. But when those closest to her conspire against Parliament, she risks losing her reputation, her business…and even her life
19th century, Yorkshire. Annabelle (Belle) Stirling was raised learning all about the wonderful world of drapers. After the lost of both her parents, Belle starts running the family draper shop all by herself, even if the owner is her brother, Wesley. The latter is a charming young man who isn’t interested at all in the shop and lets his sister do whatever she thinks is best for the business.
My favourite moments in the first part of the story were the scenes during Belle’s younger years learning all there is to know about drapers with her father, Fafa. They are full of tenderness and we can see what a wonderful and accomplished woman Belle is becoming.
After an incident at her shop, Belle leaves for London where she finally decides to stay and built a new life. Sometimes, I was a little surprised how quickly she landed on her feet. Maybe I was expecting a little more resistance from her peers because not only she was a woman and unmarried but mostly she was unknown in town without any connections. But, in the other hand, the girl knew her business quite well.
The only aspect of this story that pleased me the least was Belle’s attitude in presence of her brother. I do understand that he was her only kin, but after so many problems and so many signs that something was really off, Belle remained, for a very long time, completely blind over her brother’s doings. It was even more frustrating knowing that otherwise Belle was an intelligent, hard-working woman who valued her independence above all.
I have to say that Ms Trent has a real gift to create interesting heroes. Putnam Boyce stole every scene he was in. His calm, self-confidence and passion make it impossible not to fall head over heels for him. Each time Belle needed his help, he was there for her. The mutual admiration for their respective work was something that I could feel and really appreciate. Of course, Putnam is not without faults, and that makes him even more interesting.
The historical background was extremely captivating. I knew little about the Luddites and while I was reading By The King’s Design, I excitedly searched all kind of informations about the movement. The attacks were described vividly, I could imagine without any difficulties the rage and the fear felt during the destruction of the new machines.
In the other hand, the Prince Regent is one of those royals that I never really cared for and therefore, except for his excesses, lovers and marriage with Caroline of Brunswick, my knowledge is quite limited. His reaction to Belle was surprising, but probably not unexpected given his changeable opinions and love for lovely women.
By The King’s Design was a wonderful way to begin the new year !
Grade : 4/5
GIVEAWAY at Historical Tapestry:
Historical Tapestry is organising a giveaway of By the King’s Design. If you want a change to win a copy, just leave a comment. The contest is open worldwide !