My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing
Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.
For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady yet unexciting role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would provide her a steady environment to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.
The unexpected arrival of a striking stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.
At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. And perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.
At Emberwilde, Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.
Oh how I loved reading this book! It fully transported me to the English countryside setting and was paced in a way to allow me to relax into the story while keeping me immersed with the search for further information about the plot and characters. I appreciate that the author didn't tell all the details about each character's lives in the beginning, but allowed me to discover them bit by bit through the narrative. Isabel is my favorite kind of heroine- strong in her convictions and loyal to those she loves. The sudden transition in her life is difficult to adjust to, but her role as guardian to Lizzie leads her to be an example of making the best of things instead of dwelling on the negative. I loved the words of advice from her Fellsworth friend Mary that she takes to heart, "Remember, with each dawn seek guidance, and with each night give gratitude. For there is a divine plan for each of our lives, and a journey, and you have started yours." Although Isabel tries her best, the anxiety of living in a world where things are not always what they seem brings emotions to the surface, and her reactions and struggles are realistically portrayed.
Colin is another favorite type of hero- quiet and steady with gentleness and intelligence. Those qualities comforted and appealed to Isabel and endeared him to her as he proved trustworthy with each encounter. The efforts of Isabel's aunt to match her with another were frustrating and Colin's former flame trying to ingratiate herself back into his affections made me nervous and brought tension to the various romantic angles. Colin's work to solve the case of smuggling in the woods of Emberwilde adds another level of intrigue throughout the story. With everything that is going on, it never felt overwhelming, instead the various aspects wove together and balanced out the pacing. This was a perfect Regency reading experience and I highly recommend Dawn at Emberwilde, especially to fans of Julie Klassen and Sarah M. Eden.
(Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Litfuse Publicity for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)
About the Author
Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.