SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN – Eloisa James
London, England – 1801
Snowe's Registry Office for Select Governesses is run by Eugenia Snowe, a widow for over seven years. Despite being only twenty nine, Eugenia has spent many years immersing herself in her business and trying to overcome the heartache of her husband Andrew's accidental drowning. But Eugenia is not in the business for the money; she enjoys her work, and is in the good position of being a well-titled woman with plenty of money of her own, even if some in society look down on her for being “in trade.” Ah, the stories she could tell about the children of the wealthy and titled people in the city. Her newest client is Theodore Edward Braxton Reeve, or Ward.
Born as a by-blow, or bastard, Ward has a mother, Lady Lisette, known for her outrageous actions, and many consider her a candidate for Bedlam. His grandmother gave Ward as a baby to his father, Lord Gryffyn, an earl. Ward has made a fortune in inventing, but now something so out of his league has happened he can't get his head around it. It's a long story, but his mother ran away with a schoolmate of his in Eton, aged fifteen. They ran away to the continent and had two children, Otis and Lizzie. First, Lord Darcy, the children's father, died, and just recently Lady Lisette also died, a sometime actress who travelled with the children in a carnival caravan (trailer). Now Ward is the guardian of his half-sister and half-brother, nine and eight years old. His grandmother is petitioning to get their custody, and Ward must not give any appearance of impropriety. Otis carries around a rat named Jarvis who has a velvet cloak for the opera and a satin cloak in case he is invited to a ball, sewn by his mother. Lizzie continues to wear a black veil to hide her grief.
The first governess from Eugenia's firm was let go because the children disliked her and she cried all the time. The second governess was stronger and not put off by the children, but when Otis wanted to pray for the rat's soul, and Lizzie tried to cast magic spells, which is part of the Devil's handiwork, she discussed her problems with the Vicar and quit also. Now Ward kidnaps Eugenia to take care of the children until her assistant can find him a new replacement. Everyone has been telling Eugenia to join the ranks of the living again, and perhaps the strong and good-looking Ward can help her do that. Unfortunately, Ward thinks Eugenia is an ex-governess, and to enlist the future for Otis and Lizzie that they need, he decides he needs to marry a lady, someone with a title who is accepted by society and can give them entrée to all the best things in London society.
What an interesting and unusual story by Eloisa James! Usually titled ladies don't engage in commerce, and despite being a widow, Eugenia takes a chance at being seduced by Ward. Told from Eugenia's and Ward's points of view, both of them definitely do not have ordinary lives. It is only his money that makes Ward acceptable, and Eugenia might as well be invisible after being absent from galas and balls for over seven years.
There are so many extraordinary characters to tell you about. There's Susan, Eugenia's assistant and friend. She would like to live free as Eugenia starts to do, but her father is a Vicar. Otis and Lizzie are intelligent, determined, and learned Latin and French from their father. Yet they are still children with a heartbreaking past. The Duke of Villiers is Eugenia's godfather, and determined to make Ward realize just what he did by spurning Eugenia. He gives him advice on the only way to get Eugenia's attention again after he decided she wasn't good enough for him.
SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN is a delightful story, full of strong characters and enchanting children—although they are a handful—and the healing of both Eugenia from the death of her husband, and Ward from his history with his mother. This historical romance is amusing and enchanting. Grab a copy and prepare to laugh out loud.