Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Benjamin Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, has enjoyed his life of wealth and leisure. And he had every intention of continuing that lifestyle until a frantic phone call from sister interrupts his idylls in New York City. His widowed mother’s secret gambling debts lead her to forgery, putting up Crofton Hall as collateral. Now the family faces the possibility of foreclosure by the bank, and Benjamin is forced into opening their beloved estate to the public. But he must act fast and he has no idea how to accomplish turning her into a historical venue.
Enter Ashley Niven. A friend of Benjamin’s sister, Ashley has experience managing events, and he also loves history. Ashley is also in need of a job when his current employer cuts back in the staff. Being in charge of opening Crofton Hall is a dream come true, one he has held from the moment he saw the estate. But its not just the charms of Crofton Hall that Ashley finds himself drawn to but to the dashing Earl of Crofton as well.
Much like Crofton Hall herself, there are layers to be discovered under the charming fascade of Benjamin Redbourne, if only Ashley can lower his barriers of self defense enough to undercover them.
Crofton Hall has many secrets, and something hidden for over four hundred years is about to change all their lives.
Picking up Saving Crofton Hall was a true delight. First I was returning to a setting made familiar with The Crofton Chronicles, a trio of stories set in the mid 1500’s that revolved around the lives and relationship of Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, and actor Sebastian Hewell. I adored those stories and this author’s ability to bring those times and her characters vividly to life. Secondly, I hoped to have more insight into Crofton Hall’s history to discover any additional details of Anthony and Sebastian’s life together. Did I get it? Hmmmm, yes in a totally unexpected and wonderful way, something I will let the readers discover for themselves.
Saving Crofton Hall brings that grand old estate into modern times, along with the Redbourn family. Benjamin Redbourn is the 16th Earl of Crofton, his father having recently passed. The oldest son and heir, Benjamin has been blithely yet determinedly pursuing the wild life since an earlier breakup left him devastated. His search of the fast life and faster men have taken him far aboard, leaving Crofton Hall in the hands of his mother unequipped to handle it with a younger brother and sister unable to deal with their mother and the situation. Once more, Rebecca Cohen delivers us into the middle of this historic and charming estate but this time to a family facing ruin and the loss of everything that has been in family for hundreds of years, including Crofton Hall.
Crofton Hall continues to act as an important character in this story. Objects found along her halls or in the gardens, will instantly bring up fond recollections of those earlier stories, much like visiting an old friend will make older shared events and joint memories fresh once more. The hall also serves as an intimate and immediate frame of reference for Benjamin Redbourn. As the 16th Earl of Crofton he faces challenges to his family and estate the previous owners would never have thought of while retaining those responsibilities and duties that come with the title. Benjamin remains a combination of the old and the new, history and honor, with a sense of entitlement that gets an adjustment in face of an unthinkable loss. I liked Benjamin immediately. He’s a good person hit with a series of personal and emotional shocks, the first of which is a mother with a hidden gambling problem. He’s believable, relatable, and sexy. I adored him.
Next up is Ashley Niven, another character who makes this story and romance both real and endearing. Like some of those drawing room comedies, Ashley’s drawn towards Benjamin and spends an inordinate amount of time fighting his own impulses…much to our delight. Lively dialog ushers in two men in flux. Each has qualities that mesh with the other and how they find their balance makes their romance and relationship sweet, sexy, and as charming as Crofton Hall herself. And the scenes with Ashley, Benjamin, and the people who come to “rent out” Crofton Hall are some of the most poignant and humorous scenes described. When the members of the local UFO society have their meeting at the Hall, its as funny as you would expect, then its followed by a wedding so moving that sniffling is sure to occur. But the character of Ashley also has quite the unusual pedigree and that surprising background just adds more spice to an already delicious dish of a story!
There’s Mrs. Weather, Billins, Kitty, and so many others that give Saving Crofton Hall the feeling of a close-knit community pulling together to save home and hearth. None feel extraneous to the estate or the story, more a needed ingredient that gives a depth that would be missed without them.
Here is a story rich in history and appreciation for family and tradition. Saving Crofton Hall is the first in a new series, Stately Passions, by Rebecca Cohen that features various estates in the UK. I can’t wait to see where this terrific author takes us next. While Saving Crofton Hall can certainly be read as a stand alone, for the wealth of history and romance lurking in the halls and foundation, pick up the three stories that make up The Crofton Chronicles. I have listed them all for you at the bottom of this review.
I highly recommend Saving Crofton Hall by Rebecca Cohen, an author with an ability to make history feel alive, and give modern times a rich patina of culture and tradition that sets her narratives on strong foundations from which they can grow and become memorable.
Cover artist: Reese Dante. Terrific cover, and that estate looks exactly the way I pictured Crofton Hall.
Published November 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
series Stately Passions #1
The Crofton Chronicles in the order they were written and should be read: