In Storm and Silence suffragist Lilly Linton dresses up like a man in order to cast her vote. But she doesn’t count on meeting Rikkard Ambrose, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in London. Nor does she expect his job offer after she unintentionally displays the very attributes he is looking for in a personal secretary.
Mr. Ambrose is shocked to find out his newest employee is in actuality a woman! Though he tries to rescind his offer, she plays up to his honor as a gentleman and he is forced to employ her. Though she refuses to give him a reason to fire her, Ambrose decides to force her to quit the job of her own accord.
But Lilly is more stubborn and wily than he expects. The office is a powder keg ready to explode when the brilliant, progressive and hot-tempered Lilly matches wits against her silently cold and ruthless boss. Who will win this battle? And when Mr. Ambrose’s business dealings put them in danger will the fact that LIlly is a woman be a hindrance or an asset?
I adore Lilly Linton. Or as Mr. Ambrose insists on referring to her, Mr. Linton, with an emphasis on the Mister. After all, a feminine, frilly name like Lilly does not fit a woman who despises feminine pursuits and is determined to be seen as a man’s equal. Lilly is one of my favorite characters ever. She is fierce, plucky, impulsive, fearless and stubborn. She is the very rare human who has the effrontry to stand up to Rikkard Ambrose, a man whose name alone strikes fear and awe in all who hear it.
Mr. Ambrose is cunning, calculating and ruthless, yet Lilly manages to outwit him more than once. Despite his numerous attempts to rid himself of her, she refuses to give up the job which could give her the financial independence she craves. The more dangerous her job becomes the more determined she is to keep it. She takes great pleasure in challenging her employer while also wrestling with her unacknowleged attraction towards him. Mr. Ambrose may be a cold menace, but Lilly is a force to be reckoned with! Her determination to prove herself and her volcanic anger is more than a match for his silent, icy disdain.
Storm and Silence may seem a bit daunting at close to 600 pages, however Lilly’s character and voice are so entertaining that it seems much shorter. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud reading her inner monologues, her goading of Mr. Ambrose and her responses to his attempts to get rid of her. Lilly’s independence and thirst for adventure are a thorn in his side and it is fun to see how a man used to commanding everyone around him responds to a woman who refuses to obey.
One of the funniest sections of the book is when Lilly accidentally gets drunk while they are on a mission. Her descriptions of dancing yellow piggies, conversations with Napoleon Bonaparte and anger at the floor which attempts to swallow her is both hilarious and endearing.
Perhaps Storm and Silence could have been edited to a shorter length. I could have lived without the counterpoint relationship of Lilly’s youngest sister and next door neighbor which did seem to be a bit superfluous and overly saccharine. But then it does serve as a comparison for the expected feminine behavior and stereotypical romance of most historical fiction set during the Victorian age. It also serves to show Lilly’s softer side when she feels determined to protect the only family member she seems to care about.
Aside from the length, I absolutely loved Lilly and Mr. Ambrose story. With fascinating characters, a battle of wits, engaging humor, Storm and Silence is a book which I will be reading again simply for the pleasure of it. And thankfully, it is the first in a series which will follow our intrepid twosome on other adventures. I can’t wait to see what comes next for Lilly and her boss.