Hearts of Briarwall (Proper Romance Edwardian) by Krista Jensen
Hearts of Briarwall Book Cover Hearts of Briarwall
Proper Romance Edwardian
Krista Jensen
New Adult, Historical Rom-Com
Shadow Mountain
August 2, 2022

London and the countryside of Albury, England, 1906 Lydia Wooding can hardly keep up with all the inventions the new century has brought. She's particularly fond of the petrol motor car, a luxury that fuels her longing for independence. Her older brother and guardian, Andrew, however, refuses her frequent requests to learn to drive. He's been extra protective of Lydia after their parents were killed in a motor car accident, and he'd prefer his sister focus her attention on finding a suitable husband. Lydia and her three best friends anticipate they'll all get married someday, and they certainly enjoy the attention they receive from their coterie of suitors. But settling down is hardly a priority for any of them when there is so much life to experience. Inspired by the play Peter Pan, which they all saw on the London stage, and its promise of everlasting fun and adventure, the young women vow to seize the day and pursue all that life has to offer, including engaging in meaningful causes like the upcoming, and controversial, women's suffrage march. Spencer Hayes is a man of practicality, purpose, and innovation, but he lacks the financial backing to make his dreams a reality. When he contacts his childhood friend, Andrew Wooding, about a promising business venture, he is happy to be invited to Briarwall Estate to discuss the terms. Once there, he is surprised to find that Andrew's shy, younger sister, Lydia, has grown into a young woman of beauty, wit, and a bit of fire. Even better, the two share a passion for motor cars. Torn between his dream for the future and pursuing a relationship with a passionate, free-spirited woman intent on creating her own future, Spencer must figure out how to protect his head and his heart from Lydia who is determined to live life to the fullest--and change the world in the process.

“Like Wendy Darling at the nursery window, we seize the opportunity to fly”

Hearts of Briarwall by Krista Jensen is a wonderfully entertaining historical Rom-Com. Set in the “Gilded Age” of early 1900s rural England, this accurate period piece uses the dramatically changing times technologically, socially, and politically as the backdrop to the coming of age of Lydia Wooding. Along with her close friends, who call themselves the Wendy League after seeing the play Peter Pan, Lydia desires more than what the social constructs of the day limit them to. With the freedom that comes with their titles and wealth, the girls find creative and hilarious means of forging their own path to love and happiness. Spencer Hayes, Lydia’s older brother Andrew’s childhood best friend, has the drive and vision for great things yet lacks the social standing and wealth to turn them into a reality. When he comes to seek Andrew’s backing on a business proposition after years away, he is stunned to see Lydia and can’t help but be attracted to the intelligent, firey, and unconventional woman she has become.

I loved the Hearts of Briarwall from beginning to end. It was such an easy flowing but captivating story that I read the whole book on a transatlantic flight when I probably should have been sleeping. Lydia and her friends are a great bunch, who conintually find ways to have fun in many of the overwhelming aspects of life as a woman with a title, who is expected to get married and raise a family. There are many great scenes that inject humor and a creative twist to the way they figure out how to manipulate situtions to their benefit. At one point they decide to take a trip to the famous perfumery, Floris, in London to pick personalized scents, not with a man in mind but that they find appealing. Their plan is “to appy these new fragrant feathers of ours, confident in their representation of ourselves, and sit back to see which peacocks come sniffing.”

While it has all the elements of a great Rom-Com Hearts of Briarwall is also a story with depth and seriousness. It encourages the reader to be true to themselves, take a chance on love, and follow their dreams; “All a girl needs to fly is a little fairy dust.” It also affirms that struggle is inherent to life but that we all are stronger and able to come fully into ourselves with the help of those who love us and believe in us. Hopefully, Krista will be continuing this series with stories of Lydia’s other friends.