ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER
GENRE: Historical/Victorian Romance (clean & wholesome)
PUBLISHER: Shadow Mountain
RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2021
Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.
However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.
Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.
In Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson, a marriage of convenience is tested to its already shaky limits after a tragic accident leaves Isabelle’s new husband, Alexander, paralyzed and depressed. There are many different dimensions to this story, several of which are elements I don’t see often in historical fiction. These same aspects to the plot kept me intrigued & turning the pages when I craved more sparks between the characters.
Anderson does a stellar job of instilling a sense of time and place with her readers. From the bustling (and bumpy) streets of 1850 Manchester to the idyllic countryside to the deafening roar of the mill – and a downstairs parlor-turned-sickroom fraught with tension – readers will experience the story right along with Isabelle. I loved the circle of fabulous supporting characters that surround her to provide her with emotional support and friendship, especially when she’s most lacking both in her fledgling marriage. Mrs. Burns, Doctor Kelley, Mae, Yeardley, Mrs. Kenworthy and dear Glory – all of them added tenderness and affection to the story and to Isabelle’s life.
Because the story is told from Isabelle’s perspective, I had a more difficult time connecting with Alexander, especially when he stayed so closed off from her too. I couldn’t get into his head to figure out what he was thinking, but I didn’t necessarily need to read his perspective in order to do that. I liked seeing the story through Isabelle’s eyes; I just needed for her to connect faster with Alexander so I could, too. However, I also understand why the romance was more of a slow burn than instant chemistry. It worked with the plot; I just wanted some more chemistry, even if it needed to stay repressed for a while. The last quarter of the book, though, made my romance-loving heart flutter 🙂
Bottom Line: Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson is a gentle Victorian romance with lots of intriguing layers to unpack. Readers will be drawn into Isabelle’s world and invested in her character growth, cheering at her triumphs and grieving with her in the struggles. I enjoyed gaining insight into milling & medical practices of that era, and I very much appreciated the honest and affirming portrayal of a supporting character with a mental disability. Life is not all sunshine and roses, and certainly neither is marriage, but Alexander and Isabelle have more potholes than most on their way to happily ever after. Watching their characters grow individually and together throughout this novel was the highlight for me. Fans of Elizabeth Gaskell and Lawana Blackwell will enjoy Isabelle and Alexander as well.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / enjoyed it!
KissingBook Level: 2+ / more of a gentle glow through majority of novel
Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.
High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.
What about you? What makes you want to read Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson?