Complex and sophisticated, sensuous and sexy, Nora Hague's eloquent debut novel, Letters from an Age of Reason, is set amid two historical hotbeds of racial tension, moral hypocrisy, and shifting sexual convention. The years in question are the tumultuous '60s - the 1860s. And the landscapes are those of the Civil War-era United States and Victorian England.
Miss Arabella Leeds, the teenage daughter of a prominent New York family, and Aubrey Paxton, the pampered "high-yellow" house servant of wealthy New Orleans slaveholders, are destined to meet and fall in love. But before their paths can cross, and their romance commence in London, each must forsake complacency and comfort, the familial and familiar, for a journey toward self-discovery and the allure of the forbidden. Arabella must abandon the gentlewoman's prescribed path and redefine her convictions - particularly those regarding her own sexuality - while Aubrey must acknowledge within himself a growing awareness of race and gender politics, and his place in a culture determined to ostracize him.
The pair make their unknowing way toward each other, encountering en route high adventure, erotic awakening, long-buried family secrets, and the racy underpinnings of corseted nineteenth-century society. Coincidence and correspondence steer them into the company of morphine addicts and occult practitioners, protofeminists and sexual outcasts, glib aristocracy and dire poverty. But for Aubrey and Arabella, the greatest challenge will lie in their passion for each other, which places them forever outside the mores and conventions of their time.
A romantic adventure rich with vivacity, humor, and historical detail, Letters from an Age of Reason is a beautifully tapestried tour-de-force whose exceptional depth, passion, and power are sure to resonate long after the final page is turned.
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