Algernon Clarke is beleaguered by debt and only days away from being sent to debtor’s prison. So when he is named the heir of Wealdhant, he is no position to question his sudden change in luck. The railroad wants a small part of his new inheritance and all Algy must do is sign the paperwork. With a pen stroke, they will have the land and he will have access to the estate’s vast trust fund.
Jasper Waltham is groundskeeper to the crumbling estate of Wealdhant. For nearly a century, his family has tended the gardens and orchards of the seemingly forgotten property. Jasper sees Wealdhant as his to protect and drives off the railway when they came looking for land. Jasper assumed he could easily do the same with the man claiming to be the new lord. He doesn’t expect Algernon to be quite so charming or easy to like. But despite their natural attraction, the issue of Wealdhant’s rightful heir and the threat of the railroad cannot be ignored. Algy must decide if money is worth more than all that Wealdhant offers and Jasper must measure the weight of truth against the desires of his heart.
The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor was an enjoyable, though flawed, romance set amongst the expansion of British railroads in the mid-nineteenth century. The plot is simple enough and doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is, which I appreciate. Jasper and Algy are well suited most of the time, though they fight with unnecessary frequency and without much purpose. Theirs is occasionally a rather improbable pairing and their romance feels rushed and a bit wedged into the story, almost as an afterthought. I would have preferred their relationship had a chance to evolve and grow more naturally. Also both Jasper and Algy are a bit flat, lacking in much definition or dimension. We never learn much about either of them and this makes it hard to become fully invested in their journey. This is not to say they are wholly without merit. Indeed the scenes they share are some of the most enjoyable of the book, but as characters they are never felt fully realized.
The fight against the railway (think of it as a case of imminent domain) is a rather interesting sidebar and there are several nuggets of railroad law that actually turned out to be fascinating. Had this been given more prominence to the overall plot, I think the story could have achieved a bit more depth.
Both Jasper and Algy seem fairly quick to confirm their status as lovers and do so in such a cavalier manner as to be altogether unrealistic. They tell family members and household staff without any apparent concern for the potential repercussions of their relationship. This seems utterly unbelievable and historically suspect. This was a big issue for me as it comes up several times and is never addressed in a realistic way.
Wealdhant Manor is supposed to be haunted and Algy has several run-ins with the household specter, but this plot line is essentially abandoned and readers are given only a cursory resolution to this aspect of the story. Too much of The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor read as unfinished or rushed and the end result is a book with a lot of good ideas that never really materialized into a fully developed novel.
The Two Lords of Wealdhant Manor had plenty of issues, but when viewed in the context of its simple plot and basic romantic structure, it is fairly enjoyable. As long as readers don’t mind a few loosely addressed story points and characters that never fully evolve, this is still a quick, fun read.