As a girl, Nancy Bloom would go to Bath's Theatre Royal, sit on the hard wooden benches and stare in awe at the actresses playing men as much as the women dressed in finery. She longed to be a part of it all and when a man promised her parents he could find a role for Nancy in the theatre, they believed him.
His lie and betrayal led to her ruin.
Francis Carlyle is a theatre manager, an ambitious man always looking for the next big thing to take the country by storm. A self-made man, Francis has finally shed the skin of his painful past and is now rich, successful and in need of a new female star. Never in a million years did he think he'd find her standing on a table in one of Bath's bawdiest pubs.
Nancy vowed never to trust a man again. Francis will do anything to make her his star. As they engage in a battle of wits and wills, can either survive with their hearts intact?
The second in Rachel Brimble's thrilling new Victorian saga series, Trouble for the Leading Lady will whisk you away to the riotous, thriving underbelly of Victorian Bath.
Once a girl with stars in her eyes, Nancy Bloom is now a successful prostitute. The exclusive and expensive brothel where she works and lives is also home to her surrogate family who support each other through thick and thin. Francis Carlyle has divorced himself from his past at the workhouse but it continues to gnaw at him though he is now a successful theatre manager. Francis hopes that Nancy can bring his past to life on the stage, but she's not looking for past dreams to upset her present contentment. Nor are either of them looking for love, but that's waiting in the wings as well.
There's a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that goes into many novels, particularly historicals, and I found my stretched by the economics of Nancy's life, not to mention her being in the bloom of health. However, once that is put aside, the characterisations are spot on. Both Francis and Nancy are haunted and shaped by their pasts in an utterly believable way. Francis is ambitious and pushy, afraid to look back, whereas Nancy puts up a facade that is aggressively cheerful - or sometimes just aggressive. It was great to see them call each other out on these traits and make small steps towards a better version of themselves. I also loved the cast of supporting characters, many of whom deserve awards for patience, if not their own book! Mrs Gaynor was a lovely sweetheart and the friendship between Louisa and Nancy spoke of deep trust and friendship.
There is also a theme of social justice as Francis and Nancy look to make a difference though Francis' play. I can't help but feel that this story is not yet ended - while there is a happy ending for our leads, between the workhouse, Francis' friend Edmund, and the play itself, there are plot threads that are yet to be tied up.
This is a good romance between two very prickly leads, if you don't mind a few loose ends.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Rachel's Random Resources; all opinions are my own
Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 20 published novels including the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).
In 2019 she signed a new three book contract with Aria Fiction for a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel. The first book, A Widow’s Vow was released in September 2020 followed by book 2 Trouble For The Leading Lady in March 2021 – it is expected that the final instalment will be released in the Autumn 2021.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.
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