Forlag Bethany House Publishers
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Vying for the Viscount by Kristi Ann Hunter is the first book in her new series Hearts on the Heath, published by Bethany House Publishers. The story is set in Newmarket, Suffolk 1817 and is about Hudson, Viscount Stildon, who has just arrived from India where he was born and raised. Having listened to local gossip he finds himself in an extensive group of bachelors hoping to court one of the country’s most eligible single women who has a prize winning stallion as her unofficial dowry.
He meets volunteer horse trainer and neighbor Bianca Snowley who shows up every morning to exercise one of his horses. Hudson hires Miss Snowley to help him learn how to move about in society without making a fool of himself.
Main character Hudson, Viscount Stildon, is knowledgeable about horses but confused about the ins and outs of English society and customs. He seems a likeable character who is able to look past social prejudices to view each person’s individual merits. Much like we would today.
Secondary character Bianca Snowley has a difficult relationship to her stepmother reminiscent of Cinderella. I felt sorry for her, but I was pleased to see she stood up to her stepmother more as the story progressed. Bianca was my favorite character of this story.
I found the plot rather unique, as I have not read a story which centers on horses like this one. Main ideas of the plot is what people are willing to do to gain better positions by wealth or inheritance and deals with class distinction and social prejudices relating to children born out of wedlock.
I love the light hearted and funny writing style with a friendly bantering dialogue and great atmosphere. I felt each character was very well thought out, beautifully described and perfectly placed into the plot. I loved that the story included characters from Kristi Ann Hunter's Uncommon Courtship, book 3 in Hawthorne House Series.
My favorite part of this story was Holden’s adjustment to English society and the romance development between him and Bianca. It started with easygoing, bantering friendship. Romance was developing slowly between them when they were looking the other way.
My least favorite part of the story was how Bianca was treated by her stepmother. A terrible, conniving character that would make Cinderella’s stepmother seem almost kind hearted.
Back in India, Hudson felt God was distant from his life and he didn’t attend church. He starts attending church sermons and reading the Bible and reflects on his faith more and he gradually comes to trust God’s plan.
Vying for the Viscount (Hearts on the Heath #1) is the unique story set in horse racing environment with great character building and light hearted and bantery writing style. I would recommend it to anyone, and I eagerly await next installment. Readers of historical romance fiction would enjoy it too. Similar authors to explore might be Sarah M. Eden or Julie Klassen.
Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for this eARC which gave me the opportunity to share my honest review. All opinions are completely my own.
My rating: 5 stars / 5
Main reasons: innovative plot, great character building, fabulous writing and dialogue
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