This is a Regency romance. It's unusual for me to review any romance, but I would never have thought that I would ever review a book in this particular romance sub-genre. Many romances contain characters that I find offensive, but there is nothing inherent in the structure of romances in general that requires women to be doormats or men to be arrogant. Regencies are inherently problematic for me. I hate the Regency milieu. I think that Regency romances glorify aristocrats and their lifestyle which I consider repellent. So the only type of Regency romance that I'd even be willing to read, would have to deal with characters who are outsiders that live in an entirely different context. This means that the only thing that would define the book as a Regency romance is that it takes place during the same early 19th century period. Miss Jacobson's Journey deals with Jews whose values are different from early 19th century English aristocrats. This is one of the reasons why this book is a breath of fresh air.
Miriam Jacobson herself is the best thing about the novel. Her family doesn't expect her to marry a man with a title of nobility. Instead they want her to accept an arranged marriage with a Talmudic scholar. Clever Miriam claims her right to an independent life by making a decision to which her family couldn't object. She would accompany her medical researcher uncle on his travels in order to take care of him. She hoped to have adventures in the process of assisting her uncle. I liked the fact that a Regency romance was presenting us with a heroine whose goal was to have adventures. She turned out to have opportunities to learn about medicine as her uncle practiced it, develop a working knowledge of a number of languages and a network of connections with her uncle's patients throughout Europe.
There is an English aristocrat in the novel who evolves as a character, and becomes somewhat more sympathetic over the course of the narrative. Carola Dunn portrays Lord Felix Roworth as a foil for the Jewish hero, Isaac Cohen. They are contrasting rivals for Miriam's affections. Isaac is as non-traditional in the context of a Regency as Miriam. I definitely preferred him over Lord Felix.
In addition to the romance drama, Miriam becomes involved in a secret mission against Napoleon that is facilitated by the influential Rothschild family who are real historical personages. I had read non-fiction dealing with 20th century Rothschilds, but I knew very little about earlier generations of Rothschilds. In Miss Jacobson's Journey, we learn about the role of the Rothschilds in the Napoleonic Wars, and something about their previous history. We also learn about the status of Jews during this period.
This is a very original and well-developed Regency romance. I loved the intelligence and adaptability of both the hero and heroine. I was impressed with Carola Dunn's authenticity in her depiction of the period and Jewish family life. It's definitely one of the best romances I've ever read.