By the King’s Design by Christine Trent
ARC, Paperback, 384 pages
Kensington Publishing Corp
January 31, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction, Regency
Source: Received from Author as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour
“Strong-willed Annabelle Stirling is more than capable of running the family draper shop after the untimely death of her parents. Under her father’s tutelage, she became a talented cloth merchant, while her brother Wesley, the true heir, was busy philandering about Yorkshire. Knowing she must change with the times to survive, Belle installs new machinery that finishes twice the fabric in half the time it takes by hand. But not everyone is so enthusiastic.
Soon, riled up by Belle’s competitors, the outmoded workers seek violent revenge. Her shop destroyed, Belle travels to London to seek redress from Parliament. While there, the Prince Regent, future King George IV, commissions her to provide fabrics for his Royal Pavilion. As Belle’s renown spreads, she meets handsome cabinetmaker Putnam Boyce, but worries that marriage will mean sacrificing her now flourishing shop. And after Wesley plots to kidnap the newly-crowned King—whose indiscretions are surfacing—she finds herself entangled in a duplicitous world of shifting allegiances.
Painting a vivid portrait of life in the British Regency, Christine Trent spins a harrowing tale of ambition, vengeance, love, and complex loyalties against the dynamic backdrop of the early Industrial Revolution.”This third outing from Christine Trent again brings us into the life of a young craftswoman - this time a draper. Belle Stirling has to push back against the opinion that a woman should not be in charge of a business as well as the undercurrents that are swirling around in society. Belle has to become her own woman and manage her own shop while also becoming one of the drapers who is working on the Prince Regents new pavilion.
This was my first Regency read and up until this point I wasn’t even sure what that exactly meant. This was a great introduction for me as I felt that through Christine Trent’s pen I was able to get to know the Prince Regent (and ultimately King George IV). I found out that I didn’t really like him, although at the same time during the interactions he had with Belle he didn’t seem quite so boorish. The issues that the Prince should have been facing were well detailed as were all of his mistresses and passions.
It is impossible to talk about By the King’s Design without bringing comparisons to A Royal Likeness and The Queen’s Dollmaker. I loved the nods to both of these books that the author included within this novel. Claudette Laurent has a small role in this book and a few of the events from A Royal Likeness are mentioned. It was a nice treat to the readers of these books. I didn’t find Belle as compelling of a character as Claudette or Marguerite from her prior books. The two prior heroines were more street smart and their own women, while Belle seemed to rely on the men in her life too much for my liking. She seemed to be clueless to the things going on around her most of the time.
As for the other characters in this story – I really enjoyed Wesley, Belle’s brother. He inherently finds trouble everywhere he goes and gets mixed up in some interesting situations. Put, the cabinet maker, was quite the gentleman who I think every girl would be happy with. There is also a famous author who makes her acquaintance with Belle and that was a great surprise. I will let you figure out who for yourself.
I love how Christine Trent includes some lesser known craft professions within her books – this time cabinetmaking and drapery. I found myself wishing for a few more details about the fabric shops and drapery while I felt comfortable with the amount of cabinetry information included.
Overall this was another enjoyable, quick, and compelling read from Christine Trent. I can’t wait to see what she brings to us next.
Christine Trent also has written The Queen’s Dollmaker and A Royal Likeness. You can visit Christine’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
4 out of 5 stars.
Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court