It was a quarter to four in the morning when Mrs. Hester Kean, trailed by two liveried footmen, arrived on foot at the Black Swan in Holborn.
Hester Kean, cousin and waiting woman to the Countess of Hawkhurst, has been sent to Yorkshire. There, she is to prepare her young cousin, Mary, for life in London and at Court. Upon arriving, she learns the father of one of her travelling companions, papist Charles Fairfax, has been murdered. It is post Reformation, and Catholics live under very strict rules and suspicion still of being Jacobites. However, Hester takes a liking to Charles, and Mary even more so. Gideon, now outlawed and stripped of his title, follows Hester to Yorkshire. Appearing as “Sir Robert,” his intention is to persuade Hester to flee with him to France. When a second murder occurs and “Sir Robert” is accused, they must first identify the killer.
From the very first page, we are immersed in the sights and sounds of the 18th century. Miss Wynn is exactly in every detail from fashion, food, travel, customs and manners and the very strict manners dictated by class.
Hester is a delightful, fully-dimensional character. Because she falls into the category of a “poor relation,” she is bound by very strict conventions. At the same time she is education, intelligent, and independent as much as allowed. Actions which may be permitted, or at least tolerated, in women of the lowest and highest classes, are not for someone of Hester's rank. Ms Wynn explains this well and uses it to enhance the story. Hester is tactful and very good at handling people and situations. We feel for her; her desire for St. Mars, and her insecurity due to the difference in their social and economic levels. Yet because the story is told in 3rd person, we are able to know what Hester does not. It’s very gratifying.
Gideon has a strength about him. Rather than bemoan the situation in which he finds himself, he gets on with things. He is determined to win Hester, yet isn’t foolish. Nor does he do anything which might compromise her. He is gallant in the best sense of the word, and considerate with a kindness toward his groom Tom, and to animals. How could one not like Gideon.
The mystery may seem, at first, to be secondary, yet the threads are always there, becoming more visible all the time. When they do come together, it is in a very satisfying manner.
The history in the book is informative and interesting. Do read the sections of "Historical Background" and the "Author's Note" for a more complete understanding of the time and why Hester, a spinster, is referred to as "Mrs. Kean."
“Acts of Faith
” is a very good book. I do, however, strongly suggest beginning at the start of the series with “The Birth of Blue Satan,” both to truly understand the characters and their relationship, as well as having a better understanding of the time, but also for the pure please of enjoying five wonderful books.
ACTS OF FAITH (Hist Mys-Hester Kean/Gideon; Viscount St. Mars-England-1716) – VG+
Wynn, Patricia – 5th book in series
Pemberley Press, 2014