"You are so much more, so very much more than you think you are, Cressie."
I was blown away first by the cover of this book, and then the actual story. It has depth, passion, and intrigue. I couldn't give it a five, because towards the end, it dragged a bit. But what a sweet, and unique story! Apparently it's also part of series, which I had no idea about. But that didn't hinder my enjoyment.
The story takes place in England, 1828. Of course, during this time, women are expected to run a household, bear children and be ignorant of science, literature and art. Cressie is extremely intelligent, and supposedly very plain. She's been compared to her sisters her entire life, and has always been a disappointment to her father. Now, 8 years since she came out, her father insists that she help take care of her half-brothers who have driven away another governess. Tucked away in the country, pregnant yet again, is her stepmother.
And then one day, her father commissions a painting of his favorite children. Giovanni is a famous painter - one who is able to capture the beauty of every subject. He also is miserable, unable to find a subject who captivates him. And women throw themselves at his feet repeatedly. On this occassion, Giovanni is immediately taken by Cressie. Giovanni is beautiful, and Cressie thinks that she is not. Even though he's not commissioned by the father, he decides he wants to paint Cressie because he sees something in Cressie that the world does not. "You think that no one sees you, and yet you want to be seen. You want people to know that there is more to you than mere bloodstock. I can help you, I can show that person,but only if you will let me see her."
And thus begins an attraction that neither can deny. They have to navigate the uncharted waters of social inequalities, meddling families, and sordid pasts. Cressie is an engaging and intelligent character. She constantly belittles her looks, which while annoying in the beginning, are there for a reason. Giovanni is intriguing and has real depth. However, in the scene where they discover a hidden room in the house, I was confused because it seemed awkward and out of place. It was out of character too. And, it really made me not like Giovanni. I mean, talk dirty to someone and then run away? That's a dick move.
The author does an excellent job on her side characters; dispelling the illusion of first impressions. Except for Cressie's father. I can't remember hating a character more. I mean seriously... knock up your wife, leave her in the country and then only visit once a year? And then, don't let her choose which doctor she wants...
Anyway, it really is a fabulous book. If you like historical romance, this is a great one to pick up.