Jane Grey by Nina Mason
A Homage to the Bronte Classics (The Bronte Brothers, Book 1)
Nina Mason Creations (May 16, 2017)
Matthew Brontë, a true romantic at heart, believes the only happiness in life is to love and be loved. And yet, he fears he lacks the capacity to love…until he meets Jane Grey. Jane, a humble English governess, seems perfect for Matthew, apart from one significant snag: Jane can only marry a man of means and Matthew must give up his fortune if and when he marries. When faced with the choice between love and money, which will each of them choose?
“He’s not what he pretends to be.”
Very well written, descriptive, and a clearly researched historical romance. I was thoroughly engrossed in Jane Grey. While I greatly enjoyed the two lead characters, Matthew and Jane, I also took delight in Cecile. She gave the story a little bit of extra sass as she did whatever she desired despite how it affected others. Usually those type of characters annoy me but she was just so entertaining to read. Emotions come off the page as Matthew and Jane’s relationship takes form amidst the dilemma of love or money; the challenges and sacrifices for love. A novel that will take you back in time and put romance back in your reading.
Note: Special thank you to Nina Mason for gifting me a copy of Jane Grey via a Facebook event/party. I wasn’t quite sure if I would enjoy it or not, but it was gifted to me, so I always make an attempt to read and review. This was a surprise read; not a typical book I would pick up but so glad I gave it a go because I really enjoyed it. I hope you give it a try too! ~ Lisa
A lump of emotion formed in her throat as she took in the black armband encircling his bicep. How soon would he be ready to take another wife? The thought provoked stabs of guilt and regret, so she cast it from her mind. He might be the son of a country curate, but there was still little chance he’d marry someone of her plain looks and low station. “The garden is of the Andalusian style.” He swept his unencumbered arm across the expanse. “Do you see how the borders form four separate quadrants?” “Yes.” Upon closer inspection, she noticed the boxwood hearts in one bed were intact while those in another were split in half. “Why do the quadrants symbolize?” “Each represents a different aspect of love. That section there”—he pointed to the segment primarily displaying pink roses—“signifies tender love. The red roses in the corners are the flames of love surrounding the hearts, which are pink—the color of tender feelings. At the center are the masks worn at masquerade balls to conceal the wearer’s identity.” She looked at him and felt herself flush. “What do the masks represent?” “In masks, we all become equal. Just as when we are in love.” Jane smiled at the sentiment, which struck remarkably close to home. “Tell me about the other three quadrants.” “The section just there represents passionate love.” He gestured toward the square in the northeast corner. “Do you see how the hearts are broken in that one?” “I do indeed,” she replied, struggling to keep her countenance. “Is that how the castle got its name? For Cœur Brisé means broken heart, does it not?” “It does, and that is an excellent guess,” he told her. “But this garden didn’t exist when I came here. Its construction was my doing.” Jane blinked at him in astonishment. “You designed this garden yourself?” “I did, inspired in part by The Romance of the Rose, an old French allegory about the art of courtly love, and in part by The Garden of Love by William Blake, which speaks of religion’s repression of sexual desires. Though my garden is nothing like those in either poem.” She was familiar with the verse by Blake, which she’d always considered a sacrilege. Was the object of her desire an atheist? She prayed that he was not, for she did not think she could marry a man who had turned his back on God. “And that”–he gestured toward a section dominated by red roses–“is the quadrant devoted to passionate love. The broken hearts represent thwarted passion. And the clumps of boxwood are entangled to form a maze meant to evoke the blindness and bewilderment of passion. Over there”—he indicated the square to the left of the last one—“is the quadrant devoted to flighty love. The fans occupying all four corners symbolize flirtation and capriciousness. Between the fans are the horns representing betrayal and, in the center, the letters exchanged by lovers. As you can see, the roses in this square are yellow—the color of betrayal.” Her fears regarding his intentions toward Lady Cécile eased somewhat as she gazed upon the quadrant he’d just described. Surely, a man with the wherewithal to plant an entire garden devoted to flighty love could recognize it when he encountered such insincere affections in the flesh. “Last, is the quadrant of tragic love,” he continued, gesturing toward the final quarter. “Here, the boxes are shaped into daggers and swords—the weapons used in duels fought by the rivals for a lady’s affections. The flowers, as you see, are red to symbolize the blood spilled in such contests.” As Jane studied the garden’s details, she wanted to ask him what had inspired such a sentimental monument. The question, however, required no answer, because it was right in front of her, spelled out in flowers and hedges. He’d been unfulfilled in his marriage. The reasons mattered little. What was important was that she understood his regrets to the core of her being. He, too, had been a drifting ship with no anchor to drop or safe harbor in which to seek refuge. Like her, he knew the hardship of never being able to open his heart, or freely share his thoughts with any hope of understanding. And, as she knew all too well, to be confined to such unsympathetic companionship for an extended period of time was akin to depriving a garden of vital sunshine and nutrients. No one’s heart and soul could thrive under such blighting conditions. Hers certainly hadn’t. As a governess, she had to keep her feelings and opinions to herself, lest she overstepped her bounds, as she’d done at her last place of employment. He had turned toward her and was standing very close. As she looked up and met his gaze, the flutterings in her abdomen returned with increased power. Suddenly, she bemoaned her lack of height. Were she just the slightest bit taller, she might rise up on her tiptoes and kiss that seductive mouth of his. But alas, being so diminutive—and of the so-called “fairer sex”—she could not act on that impulse without shocking him senseless and potentially ruining their friendship. He must make the first move and, despite the sinfulness of the request, she prayed to God in Heaven he would. When he brought his face closer to hers, her heart beat faster. For one breathless moment, she believed God had finally heard her prayers. Gazing longingly into his soulful eyes, she lifted her mouth, straining for the contact she so desperately desired. Her lips silently mewled with the need of him. So did her heart. And then, quite suddenly and to her crushing disappointment, he stepped back and lowered his gaze. “Since we promised to tell each other our secrets, I feel it only right to confide something about myself I find most troubling.” The gravity of his words and expression struck fear into Jane’s heart, but as his friend she felt bound to listen to whatever he wanted to tell her, however much it might hurt her. “You see, dear Jane,” he continued as solemnly as before, “much as it pains me to admit the truth, I’ve never loved any woman…and often doubt myself capable of experiencing that most-desirable of emotions.” His words blighted her hopes and brought tears to her eyes. “Surely, you are wrong. For you strike me as a man of great passion.” “I used to be.” His countenance grew even more sullen. “But my heart has become like a tree in winter. Barren, leafless, and encrusted with ice.” “Perhaps it will thaw when you meet the right woman,” she offered, trying to remain optimistic. He brought his face very close to hers and her heart leapt. Would he kiss her this time? Oh, do let him! To her suffocating disappointment, he did not press his lips to hers. Instead, he said in a strained voice, “I probably should keep this to myself, but my cold heart has warmed some since making your acquaintance, my darling friend.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nina Mason is an incurable romantic who strives to write the same kind of books she loves to read: those that entertain, edify, and educate. Born and raised in Southern California, Ms. Mason currently lives with her family in Woodstock, Georgia. When she isn’t writing, she sculpts historic figures and fairy babies.