All is Sturm and Drang in Aston's recreation of Mr. Darcy's early 19th century English world, romance run aground by obstacle and misunderstanding, a beautiful, principled heroine turning her back on the man she loves. From ecstasy to despair in less than twenty-four hours, Phoebe Hawkins, Mr. Darcy's niece, finds her joy in marrying the impressive Mr. Arthur Stanhope dashed by her father's objections and her own realization that the man she loves may be a rake. Affected by her parents' issues with infidelity in her youth, Phoebe is a creature of her era, quick to judge and slow to forgive. Fleeing the London social season for Darcy's estate in Pemberley, Phoebe discovers that trouble pursues in spite of her best intentions. On the mend- she desperately hopes- from a shattered romance, Phoebe is determined to enjoy Darcy's estate, all the more so when Louisa Bingley arrives to keep her company.
The usual assortment of characters create a pleasant, and typical diversion of such period novels, an enigmatic, haughty French governess, a house full of observant and talkative servants, an interfering, nosy aunt, a familiar villain from previous Aston novels, an unexpected romantic entanglement, and, of course, the arrival of Mr. Stanhope, much to Phoebe's dismay. Class distinctions are rigid, those with fortunes deemed superior to those without, women embracing fleeting happiness in marriages dominated by men ( who enjoy their mistresses and political passions, whether Whig or Tory), all the action come to a head on the night of a summer ball in Darcy's newly-constructed glass house (hence the title).
Their choices constricted by social convention, young ladies like Phoebe and Louisa are expected to marry well to benefit their families. But such expectations fly in the face of true love, a key element in such a delightful distraction from the harsh realities of life. Phoebe remains intractable- for as long as she can hold out against the inclinations of her heart- avoiding bumbling suitors, virtuously clinging to principle and the harsh judgment of a wronged Mr. Stanhope. With perfect pitch, Aston captures time and place in a delightfully escapist novel, a wry treatment of privilege, pride and the inevitability of passion. Luan Gaines/2009.
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