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The Lacemaker is the latest historical romance release by Laura Frantz. I first discovered her work in 2015, rather suddenly, while I was browsing through goodreads. The title of that particular book really intrigued me so I had to give the story a try. I enjoyed it so much that I had to check out her backlist. Fast forward 3 yrs. and 4 books later, I could say that I’m a fan of Ms. Frantz and wait eagerly for her next release.
The Lacemaker is set in the colonial America, around 1775. Our h, Lady Elisabeth Lawson, daughter of Lord Stirling, is one of the most sought after brides of Williamsburg where the Loyalists are the majority. Her father is one of them and holds quite a bit of power. Lord Stirling isn’t, what you’d call, a ‘devoted papa’. He’s more of an autocrat who wants everyone to bow down to him, and that includes his own family. And he’s ruthless enough to do ANYTHING to keep his power and the Loyalist hold intact in this side of America. Stirling’s greatest disappointment was to never having a son to carry on his illustrious(?) legacy. On top of that, his French descent wife has never been fond of him, supporting the Rebels who are even now trying to upend the Loyalists and declare the independence of America! How funny!! He knows that’ll never come to pass if he, and his friend, a fellow Loyalist and the Governor, Lord Dunmore have anything to say about it. In fact he’s been trying his best to do whatever it’s needed to make a stronghold of lands, money and power to defend their territory. One of them was to marry his only daughter, the beautiful Elisabeth to another loyalist with money and the lands.
Elisabeth, being the only child, had been brought up (or I’d rather say ‘trained’?) to be meek and biddable knowing anything else will only earn her the wrath of her sire. She’s not only a beauty with blonde hair and blue eyes, she’s also as accomplish as a lady in her standing should be, the best being those dainty yet stunning lacemaking that her dearest mama had taught her. Though Elisabeth loved her mom, she had no real love for her father. Only that odd sort of loyalty you feel for your family despite knowing he’s an a$$hole, just because of that; he’s your father. That doesn’t mean she never wanted her father’s love, but she knew it’s never forthcoming from a blindly ambitious, ruthless and utterly selfish man like him. One who had made certain everyone knew that her mother was mentally unstable and moved her away to Bath so she can’t cause any trouble during Elisabeth’s very upcoming marriage to one Miles Roth. And whatever else he was cooking with his Loyalist buddies.
Though she’d always known she’d been just a pawn for her father’s hunger of power and money, Elisabeth had tried her best to be the good daughter, never questioning her father’s actions. But even she knew that Miles Roth was a rotten crap of a fiancé, who never could make time for her out of his gambling table, drinking and wenching. Everyone knew what he was, and how fast he was losing money, yet her father was totally fine with it as long as it served his own purpose. However, Elisabeth, in her innocence, had thought she could help him mend his ways once they’re married. It was one of those times, in Miles’s absence when she was to attend a ball that Elisabeth found out there are better men out there. When Noble Rynallt arrived at her doorstep to accompany her Elisabeth didn’t know if she could go with him seeing he’s a known Rebel sympathizer. Should she be wary of him? But his polite gesture made her oddly comfortable, even if the pity lurking in his eyes didn’t make her any happier. Mr. Rynallt was a distant cousin to Miles Roth and knew whatever it was there to know about him.
Noble is a Welshman through and through, from his looks to his love for the country he’s now occupying. He’s been here for years and had come to call it his home. His sister, Enid also followed him to America; who sadly had passed away a few years ago. He has an elder brother, Elon, still living in Welsh, taking care of the family properties as the heir after their parents have passed. I wasn’t sure why Noble left home or its narratives may have eluded me somehow. All I could tell that he’s been here for a while, and his big house called Ty Mawr (The Big House literally in Welsh), was leased to his father hence he’s inherited it and it’s lands. He’s a successful barrister as well as an equally successful farmer and businessman. Noble is also a sought after bachelor, or used to be until he showed his solidarity with the Patriots. Others knew that he was actively collaborating with the likes of Patrick Henry, George Washington and anyone you can think of, who are trying to brew trouble for the Loyalists. Times were difficult and men were ready to do whatever it was necessary to hold their grounds. Even if it meant death, a thought very much on everyone’s mind. The reason why Noble never considered getting married and settling down. He had no intentions of leaving a widow and children alone in the middle of a war. And a war it’ll be if things go according to their plans.
Noble had known Elisabeth and was more aware of her than she’d ever been of him. From what I read, he’d seen her before and been smitten with her ever since, though he knew her father would never approve of a match between them. Or it may have been his cause that made him think of not getting involved. Now she was engaged to his good-for-nothing cousin. Noble envied that a$$ who didn’t seem to appreciate the good luck he had, no matter how many times Noble tried to bring him around; to encourage him to live a good life. Right now, while accompanying Lady Elisabeth to the ball Noble could only feel irritated at Miles. Even though he was placed there as a spy to glean info in the guise of Elisabeth’s escort to the ball, Noble felt for her. Miles had no idea what was happening seeing he was drunk somewhere in town, eyeballs deep in gambling.
The next few chapters of the story were a rush where Elisabeth’s life turns upside down all of a sudden. Living an innocent life in seclusion, she had no idea how bad things were around her. She’d heard stray gossips from her French maid Isabeau, but she had no real idea at all until one day she wakes up in the middle of the night to find her father had ditched her and left her to the mercy of the Rebels—who were even now ransacking her house—to hid somewhere with his good friend Dunmore. All the servants of the house were gone except for Isabeau and Mamie, who is her mother’s old maid. Elisabeth was waiting for her mother’s arrival any day, hoping she could arrive before her wedding. But it seems like things won’t be as planned. Later, after learning that her so-called fiancé had also decided to wash his hands off her, Elisabeth becomes determined to eke a life for herself. Her only help came from Noble Rynallt, association with whom was as dangerous for her as it was for him. They stood at the opposite side of the storm that was brewing, more specifically she was known to be the ‘opposite side’ because of her father. How could she entangle herself with him knowing all that? Even if she felt an attraction towards him that made her breathless, something she never felt for anyone where men were concerned. It would only bring nothing but danger to his doorstep.
Noble had every intention of helping Elisabeth. He went as far as to take her in his home, where she promptly changed her name to Liberty or Libby as her mother used to call her, to hide away from all the trouble. Yet she didn’t wish to be a reason for Noble’s downfall, while he was ever worried of her safety knowing her ties to her Loyalist father would not be forgotten soon. That coward was hiding in a British ship somewhere nearby, waiting for help to arrive so they can squash the Rebels or so to speak. To Noble’s knowledge the war is already almost upon then. At this time, when his thoughts should be occupied by his cause, he could only think how he can keep Libby safe. But Libby had other ideas of her own as he’d find out soon enough.
Despite Noble’s urging, Libby decides to become an independent woman by working, and doing something with the only skill she excelled at; the lacemaking. Her lacemaking was known to the people and even with all the trouble, she was hired by a man who ran a, what I presumed, was a hotel of sort? He always had people coming and going and was always in need of a needlewoman. For the first time in her life, Libby understood the life she’d not known, or even cared for before now; a servant’s. She wasn’t unkind or anything but she was very far removed from this world that now she’s fallen into. She was penniless and basically without any friends but Noble. She learns the value of hard work as soon as she begins her ‘new’ life. In the scant free time, Libby would make laces to sell in various places, hoping to earn some extra money to stash away for a time she may need it. In all of this, her yearning to be with Noble wouldn’t leave. She’d look for his presence and be overjoyed when she saw him coming by. But she still refused his help when he offered it, not wanting to be a bother. Or a danger.
The Lacemaker isn’t a short book by any means but the majority of it was spend on detailing the historical side of things, introducing new characters and the vast middle of it was full of narratives of how Libby learns her way around the town, her whole world, to become an independent woman. There’s also the narrative of Noble’s own dilemma regarding Libby, showing us the depth of his involvement with the Patriots. He was one of them, those who were the center of it all so he knew the dangers dogging his step. And yet, he wanted Libby to be with him, under his roof, safe and sound. Though he respected her wishes and stayed away from her, she was all he could think of and worry about.
This part of the story was quite slow, dragging almost. And even though I read chapters after chapters, nothing interesting was happening besides the obvious I mentioned above. I kept hoping for something to happen but nope........
The story began rushing again when Libby decides to become a Patriot spy, declaring her intention to side with Noble rather than her father. She’d already met him once and found that she was only useful to him so long she brought him news from Williamsburg, more specifically the Rebels’. Not surprising, of course. Libby would answer with lies mingling with scant truth scattered here and there to appease him. But the exchange helped her made up her mind. In the meantime, one day when she became ill after a meeting with her father, Noble brings her to Ty Mawr again to take care of her. In the course of that time they finally begin to give into the pull they always felt for one-another. Noble was happy to find Libby on his side but spying for them wasn’t what he wanted her to do. Oh no! He knew the dangers, not only from her father and his cronies but also from his own peeps, to whom Elisabeth would become someone expendable as long as she could bring them news as well. In short, she’d be used by both sides without a second thought. And Noble would never let it happen cause he knew Libby was the innocent here.
In the course of a short time, they agree to wed as that’s what seemed like the best thing to do. Libby knew she’d be safe here under Noble’s protection or however protected one could feel in such a tumultuous time. She was aware that eventually Noble would go away when the call came for him from the frontline. He was already discussing it with her... But no matter what happens, she’d be much happier to be Madame Rynallt than anything else in the world. They wed in secret, in a small and equally simple ceremony. Noble holds off consummating the marriage thinking Libby needs to time to adjust to the newness of it all. However Libby’s thoughts were quite different. :) She was confused as to why he’s not there with her, why she’s still not his wife in every sense of the word, yet too shy to be vocal about it.
I was liking this ‘backwards courting’ they were enjoying, going to picnics, finally acknowledging their feelings. Noble telling Libby that he’d been smitten with her for a long time and she being totally flabbergasted cause she didn’t remember him all that much. Why, she thought he’d never even give her a chance knowing her father and all that it brings into their relationship. She’d been in love with him ever since she discovered her ‘enemy’ to be her best friend when she needed one the most. Not her so-called ex-fiancé, definitely not her own father. I’d say not even her mother, who arrived, then left for another town promptly for safety. Though she urged Libby to go with her, and she denied, I couldn’t imagine a woman leaving her only child, a daughter at that, in a place so fraught with danger. All she had was Noble and Libby felt very comfortable at that knowledge.
Around that time, Libby insists she goes to visit her father one last time to find out more information. Though Noble was totally against it, he gives into her constant whining. I had a bad feeling about it just as he did, so Noble accompanies her there to be close if dangers arose. Which it did when Libby’s father doesn’t lose the opportunity to capture her, what I felt, was in hopes to barter her later for whatever gain. She was lucky that the Mistress of the house they were in was extremely unhappy with the British freeloaders that swarmed her plantation. She helps Libby escape just to spite Lord Stirling.
In time, Noble and Libby consummate their marriage with a hope for a bright future full of love, laughter and many children. But the war was already upon them and Noble was already going away for days on end to train. Libby finds out she’s pregnant but she never has the opportunity to inform Noble about it. Once day, her father sends spies to kidnap her, who succeeds too. I don’t know why the servants were so relaxed knowing danger lurks nearby. It should’ve been very much clear that Lord Stirling and Dunmore won’t give her up so easily, knowing they can use her for whatever, as long as it furthers their cause. Besides she escaped one attempt, which had probably angered her father even more! By now he knew she’d married a Rebel, for all intents and purpose showing her middle finger to the Loyalists. She was kidnapped so easily from her home in Noble’s absence that it was ridiculous. -_-
The book entered its most thrilling bits at this point and I was completely hooked in it. However, here the author also decided to jump the time of the narratives from here to there, sometimes months, when I was expecting a bit more from a particular scene. To know more about what happened to Libby or Noble at that certain scene/circumstances. Sometimes it was frustrating to say the least. I was hoping for that bang to come anytime, the thrilling moments I sometimes encounter in her stories that fairly takes my breath away. There were plenty in the Moonbow Night. But in The Lacemaker that ‘bang’ never arrived. The rest of the story was quite predictable and then they were living happily ever after. :/ I had questions in my mind, lots of them and seeing it was in the middle of a war, I wanted to know how it affected their life even if Noble had given up on soldiering after a particularly distressing experience after he rescued Libby. There was no answer to what happened to her father afterwards, or whoever wrote that note that Libby’s onetime friend Cressida, who had eyes for Noble too, brought to him to denounce Libby as a traitor. All I can say, though I was extremely happy for Libby and Noble and adored both, the ending wasn’t very satisfactory. I was hoping for a few more chapters after Noble came home at last, with the two of them together. Because TBH, these two spend more time apart than together. Though I knew they loved each-other, their relationship didn’t feel as intense as I’d hoped for and their oft separated state may have been the reason behind it.
In the end, I didn’t feel that sense of satisfaction when I finished The Lacemaker. Don’t get me wrong, it’s as well-written and well-researched as any of Laura Frantz’s books. You’d find no fault in that area. This is a clean, Christian themed romance like the rest of her works, but that bit is subtle, going with the flow of the story so that’s not a problem either. But I’d hoped for more and hope I was able to explain it adequately in my review. 4 stars. I’d recommend cause what bugged me in this book may not bug you at all.