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    Enjoyable Historical Fiction/Romance

    I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour from the publisher via NetGalley and rated it 4 out of 5 Stars. A mixture of literary fiction and historical romance, A Lady of Good Family by Jeanne Mackin, tells the story of real life landscape architect Beatrix Jones Farrand. Written in third person narrative, Ms. Mackin’s tale paints a picture of both America and Europe as both continents experience the last days of the Gilded Age, the ramping up of the Women’s Rights movement and the never ending battle between “old money” and the “Nouveau Riche”. Clearly a lover of gardening herself, Ms. Mackin’s descriptions of the gardens and landscaping Beatrix Jones Farrand would have visited, studied and eventually designed herself, remind me of the simple beauty and peace one can find when working with plants. I believe Ms. Mackin does a good job introducing us, via reflection by a secondary character, to the young woman Beatrix Jones could have been during the time the story takes place; a young woman from a rich upper class society expected to marry but unwilling to do so. A “handsome”, well-educated and liberated woman, Beatrix is a study in contrasts. While she comes from old money, and a coveted social standing, she’s very aware of the how the world is changing and refuses to be tied down to a traditional role like many of the women she knows. Ms. Mackin’s easy to follow writing style made it very easy to connect with Breatrix and to root for her to be able to forge her own path. Ms. Mackin’s secondary characters are very well developed and I really enjoyed getting to know Beatrix’s mother Mary (aka Minnie), who devoted her life to “giving back to the world” to make up for her failing marriage, her aunt Edith Wharton, a writer I have to admit I’ve never read, and the fictional narrator and confidant of all three women, “Daisy Winters”, the only woman who had a loving and truly functional marriage, though it too had issues. I also thought Ms. Mackin did a good job developing Amerigo Marrismo, the young Italian gentleman Beatrix meets and becomes attracted to while visiting the Villa Borghese Gardens while in Rome. The attraction Beatrix and Amerigo begin to experience, which develops over chance encounters, is unfortunately soon offset by the conflict in the paths they want their lives to take and the interference of another wealthy American woman. Will Beatrix choose to put her plans for landscape design and professional gardening aside for a future with Amerigo or will the different paths their lives are taking tear them apart before too much emotional damage can be done? And if Beatrix walks away, who will she become? You’ll have to read A Lady of Good Standing to find out. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Mackin’s work in the future.
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