Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Mount of Hope: A Victorian Tale of Young Love by Jamie Michele
HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY –
Available in eBook & Paperback
Historical Fiction (clean)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
A fête champêtre hosted by Colonel and Mrs. Dermont is not a garden party to be missed—especially when their only son and heir, Alfred Dermont, is the pride of the Mount. Swept away by the dazzling Miss Amelia Thorwold, niece to a viscount and the darling of Almack’s, Alfred is led in joyful ignorance to the altar. Unable to dissuade him, the sisterly Julia Drummond is willing to sacrifice everything to save her beloved Alfred from ruin.
Set in the 19th century English countryside, Mount of Hope: A Victorian Tale of Young Love is a reworking of the 1844 novel Young Love by Mrs. Trollope. Originally printed in three volumes and spanning 1,064 pages, Jamie Michele has lovingly abridged and redrafted Mrs. Trollope’s forgotten manuscript to make it pleasantly accessible for contemporary readers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jamie Michele is a San Francisco born author who fell in love with a Londoner and promptly moved to England. When not writing, she can usually be found on a picnic blanket in Bath, reading on the lawn out front of the Royal Crescent.
Set against the rolling, lush landscape of the English countryside, Mount of Hope: A Victorian Tale of Young Love truly does serve as the best of two almost conflicting worlds: the deliberate and exacting Victorian era and today’s more casual and relaxed atmosphere. While, granted, this is a not an entirely new and original work, as it is an abridged version of Mrs. Frances Trollope’s original 1000 page manuscript, what Michele ends up doing is creating a path for readers of this day and age to navigate through the complexities of the original plot. In true fashion of the Brontë sisters, though, Mount of Hope features a full cast of characters that truly helps to flesh out the entire experience of a socialite’s life during the Victorian era. Undertaking a project such as this one certainly must be taxing, but the way Michele was able to effortlessly capture the true essence of the original novel is awe-inspiring.
One of the parts about Michele’s Mount of Hope that I found most successful was the way in which she presented the characters. As mentioned earlier, there are so many characters in this novel that it makes the cast of American Horror Story look understaffed. However, the thing that sets this particular novel apart from other novels in its genre is that it’s exceedingly simple to keep track of all of these different people. In my experience of similar novels — like Wurthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice — the characters tended to blend together due to possessing indistinguishable personality types, patterns of speech, and so on. And don’t get me started on the multiple Cathy Earnshaws, but that’s a different rant altogether. Even though Mount of Hope is certainly not lacking in the number of different families introduced within its 222 pages, it never feels like a chore to distinguish one person from the next. While some families tended to possess similar personality traits within themselves, there was certainly enough distinction between each individual family member that allows readers to be able to connect them as related, but not necessarily the same person with a different name. Because of Michele’s ability to fully flesh out these characters, she introduced me to possibly one of my favorite anti-heroines in recent memory: Amelia Thorwald. I know that Amelia is supposed to be a character no one particularly likes, but I couldn’t help but find myself drawn to her in the way she was looking out for herself and her interests first, which certainly wasn’t common among women at that time. I don’t want to give out any spoilers, so while what she did was completely underhanded and self-serving, I have to give her respect for looking out for number one.
Additionally, and I know I’m stressing this a lot, there are very few points in which the reader can tell that this is an extremely shortened version of the original book. One of the only glaring things that stood out at me that might have indicated this was dropping an entire subplot of some characters that were introduced during the initial fête champêtre held by the Dermonts. For example, there was a brother and sister duo who were prominently featured during this party; the sister was determined to find the affections of one of the Army men in attendance, while the other was focused on Amelia Thorwald. However, after the party, they were not heard from again. I don’t know if they fell to the wayside because of the abridging process, or if the brother was really a plot device to introduce the audience to Amelia. Apart from that, I feel like there are some plot points that definitely benefited from the shortening treatment, such as — again, avoiding spoilers — Amelia’s multi-week stay in London, or pretty much any time Alfred’s parents would go off on tangents about the wonders of their son. Of course, Michele beautifully captured the elegant, floral language indicative of Victorian romance novels, which aided in my full immersion of the Victorian experience. I’m a fan of this exchange in particular between Alfred and Amelia, the morning after his family’s party:
[…] “I believe you have some very pretty woodland scenery in this neighborhood, have you not?”
Alfred released a sigh. “I have thought so, until I began to suspect that such beauty could only belong to one object in nature.”
As a modern reader, I know I’ve read similar sentiments throughout the myriad novels to which I’ve treated myself, but I love Alfred’s delivery of the line, showing that he’s already starting to sort his feelings out for the young woman.
Overall, I would definitely consider myself impressed by Jamie Michele’s work. I came into this novel feeling rather ambivalent given my previous disdain for the Victorian romance genre, but I’m glad that I was proven wrong. If you’re a lover of this particular genre, of fancy parties in the English country, of women breaking the hearts of naive boys, definitely consider picking up a copy of Mount of Hope. My eyes have seriously been opened to the merits of getting lost in the dalliances of turn-of-the-century high society while suffering through the slings and arrows of contemporary adulthood. The ultimate irony, though, is realizing that I’ve read this entirely on an e-reader, which is as opposite as one can get from the time period.
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