Review of ‘Lucas’ by Elna Holst
“I thought ease would come, here, tucked away in the safe uneventfulness of Hunsford. It would seem I was mistaken.”
Charlotte Lucas, now Mrs. Collins is living the dull life of a parson’s wife just as she wanted. Resigned to a loveless marriage her days are filled with endless dinners at Rosings Park, household chores, correspondence, and minding her poultry. That changes abruptly when she meets the mysterious Ailsa Reid, who has come to stay with her cousin, the village physician Dr. Thomas Reid. A torrid romance ensues. An affair that’s deemed to be ill-fated for Mrs. Collins is not free to love, but maybe Charly Lucas is.
‘Lucas’ was my first Elna Holst experience, and oh am I glad to have found her. Her style elegant and soulful and perfectly in tune with the period. I fell in love with the story, the characters we know so well but get to see in a totally different light (well, at least some of them), and with the author as well. I’m completely bowled over and in serious need of reading her entire back catalogue.
‘Lucas’ is an account of what happened to Charlotte and Ailsa between September 1815 and June 1816, written in a series of letters never sent to an imaginary version of her best friend Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet (now of course Mrs. Darcy). First I thought, Oh no, letters mean we are going to be too far removed from any feelings to get emotionally involved. Luckily that was not the case. Au contraire! Instead, we have a front-row seat as this whole illicit love affair unfolds with enough passion to make your ears burn.
I loved that the romance happens early in the book so we get plenty of quality time with our two heroines and their stolen moments. Yes, Charlotte is cuckolding Mr. Collins and she is plenty aware of that. The author makes sure to convince the reader that Charlotte is at no point flippant about the choices she makes and how it will affect others. I also urge readers who would normally ignore a book with adultery as a subject to take a leap of faith. If you know the character of Mr. Collins you will find it much easier already.
”I could do nothing but quake and draw my hand over my face, repeatedly, as if I could rub away the culpability that must be stamped upon it. Would he know? Would he be able to descry the unspeakable deed I have committed? To be cuckolded by a man— Oh! But by a woman! For such I must call it. I will not allow myself to veil my sin by linguistic mincing about. I have been unfaithful. I would—I will—be unfaithful again, should the opportunity arise. The infidelity of my flesh is as nothing, of no consequence, compared to the waywardness of my heart and soul. Even at that very moment, waiting for the door to be opened, for Travis to inform me of his return, I could feel her breath upon me. I could taste her sweet kisses on my lips. I was blushing. I was torn by guilt. I was defiant. If he could not tell from the merest glance, then he must be a greater dunce than ever even your papa would have reckoned him.”
Ailsa Reid is such a wonderful character. I loved her ardent nature, the way she goes after her Charly was thrilling. She comes with some pretty heartbreaking drama from her past that will catch up with her in the present. Maidservant Lilly plays an important part in all of this and it kicks the plot into action. Some shocking revelations I could not foresee (superbly done, Elna Holst).
There was an excellent balance of romance, passion, drama, and humor. It was engaging from start to finish and I completely fell in love with the book and will re-read it many times. I almost wanted to start at the beginning again as soon as I finished it, just to spend more time with Lucas and Ailsa. Lovers of Regency romance, Georgette Heyer fans, Jane Austen fans, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ fans, historical romance fans, get this book now. You don’t want to miss out.
Possible triggers: description of stillbirth, and mention of past non-consensual sexual abuse.
f/f explicit but in keeping with the period
Themes: 1815, secret letters, a love that does not dare speak its name, Illicit Sapphic Passion, migraines, a pink rosebud left on the grave, Charlotte’s escritoire, Switzerland, a trip to Bath, Miss Anne de Bourgh likes to have her bottom paddled, the sisterhood to the rescue, Jane Austen would have approved.
ARC provided by the author to http://www.lezreviewbooks.com in exchange for an honest review.