Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer

d2e1e9dc5d9445c597769635a67434f414f4141I’m only going to attempt a vague outline of this story, because if I tried to sketch the high level of the plots that actually culminate at the end, I’d both take too long, and end up being confusing.

Lord Spenborough was on his second wife, as his first marriage resulted only in a daughter – Lady Serena. The new Lady Spenborough is actually younger than her step-daughter, but they get along well, which is fortunate when Lord Spenborough dies, and the two of them are thrown together. Rather than spend time in the Dower House near the well meaning but irritating cousin who’s inherited the title (well, really, his wife, who’s a little too fond of her new title), they decide to take up residence in Bath.

Oh, and Serena was once engaged to the Marquis of Rotherham, a particular friend of her father’s, but called it all off once she realized they’d spend all their time arguing. So who does her father list as the guardian of her fortune? Rotherham, of course. You can obviously see where this is going, despite a whole bunch of other plot twists I am not even going to attempt to catalog. I’ve called some of Heyer’s book madcap before. This one brings new definition to the term.

Sylvester: or the Wicked Uncle – Georgette Heyer

34f4e669754e409596b66756d51434f414f4141Sylvester, the Duke of Salford, has decided he must marry, and has presented his mother with a rather exacting list of things he needs in this wife. Naturally, this flies out the window when he meets Phoebe Marlow. Pheobe’s the daughter of a dear friend of his mother’s, but she’s not necessarily high society. And to make matters worse, she’s written a novel all about the ton, and made Sylvester the villain.

So this turns into one of Heyer’s a nobleman must rescue a young woman who’s run away from home to escape some “terrible” fate, except, in this case, he’s the fate. This type of tale tends to get pretty mad cap, and this particular one probably takes the cake for mad cap – both Phoebe and Sylvester are quite capable of royally messing up a promising relationship. Throw in a trip to France, and things just get crazier.

I will say, I enjoyed this book – you can’t help but be caught up in the energy, and this runaway story works better than most.

Dead Man’s Ransom – Ellis Peters

b00luznvsw-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_The civil war between King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Maud, continues, and now the Welsh are wading in. Gilbert Prescote, the sheriff in Shrewsbury, has gone north with his men to stand against Welsh raiders who are trying to help some rebel barons, and has the misfortune of being caught by the Welsh in the action. At the same time, young Elis ap Cynan, a kinsman of Prince Owain of Gwynedd, is captured in the fuss. It seems the perfect exchange- Elis for the sheriff. While arrangements are being made, Elis is given the run of the town, and meets Gilbert’s daughter, Melicent, and falls head over heels in love.

Prescote is returned to Shrewsbury, but injured, and during his first night back, in the Abbey’s infirmary, he’s murdered. Melicent assumes it’s Elis, trying to stay with her (her father has always hated the Welsh). Brother Cadfael of course knows that’s not true, and is on the case.

This was an interesting story – I think I most enjoyed the contrast between the Welsh and English senses of honor. I really didn’t see the murderer coming – it was a very interesting twist for me. All in all, another great outing in this series.

The Reluctant Widow – Georgette Heyer

badfe6dd39c2ec859322f2b5477434f414f4141Elinor is on her way to become a governess for a wealthy woman in the country – a job she’s had to take after her father gambled away the family’s fortune. She’s met at the post coach by the house’s personal coach, and about an hour later is shown into the study of a man who thinks Elinor is the woman he’s contracted to marry his cousin. Lord Carlyon is Eustace Cheviot’s heir, but doesn’t want to inherit, and so has been desperately trying to find someone to marry his cousin.   (Seriously.   I am not making this up.)

Elinor quickly realizes the mistake, but while she and Carlyon are trying to back out of the awkward situation, word comes that Mr. Cheviot has gotten into a fight, and is on his deathbed. And somehow, Carlyon snookers both Elinor and Eustace into the marriage. Have I lost you yet?

This is definitely one of the completely anachronistic Heyer stories that you have to suspend all disbelief on, and just go with it.    Because Elinor’s absolutely a member of the Carlyon family from that moment forward (the younger brother is a hoot), and it very quickly turns into a spy story.     Believe it or not, it’s a fair amount of fun. Completely unbelievable for the time it’s set in, but fun.

Jane and the Man of the Cloth – Stephanie Barron

99e353bc7b934ce59396d6e5a77434f414f4141This is the second of Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries, and we find Jane, her parents, and sister Cassandra off to take the sea air for the month of September in Lyme, which is where her novel Persuasion is partially set. On the way, a storm overturns their carriage, injuring Cassandra, and forcing them to take refuge at a nearby manor, where Jane meets the darkly forbidding Geoffrey Sidmouth.

This is meant to be a sort of love story, and Sidmouth is probably a sort of proto-Darcy (the conceit of these books is that they’re a lost trove of Austen’s letters, so they’re meant to inform how she came up with ideas for her books.) There’s also smuggling, and interesting society asides.

It’s diverting – I’ll give it that. And in some ways, the history and setting is well thought out. In other ways (Jane going out at night just for the heck of it to see what the smugglers are doing), it’s a little far-fetched. The anachronism was a bit strong at times. Still, it was a diverting read.

The Devil’s Novice – Ellis Peters

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Read for the RIP XI Reading Challenge.

This is the eighth book in the Brother Cadfael books, and while all of the books deal with the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud in some degree (and it does touch this story), this book ends up being more about family drama, which is a bit unexpected when your main character is a monk.

The Abbey in Shrewsbury accepts a postulant from a local family of the gentry. He’s nineteen, so well old enough to make the decision, and seems eager to embrace a life in the church, but he’s clearly not cut out for that life. To make matters worse, he suffers from terrible nightmares, and the screams from those (which he does not remember), quickly label him the Devil’s Novice, and most of the abbey wants him gone.

Coincidentally, a powerful bishop visits on his way through, investigating the disappearance of an envoy the church has sent to one of the factions in the civil war. That envoy is a cousin of the new novice, and it was at his family’s home that the envoy was last seen alive. Brother Cadfael can tell there’s a connection, and it’s up to him to figure it out.

Like I said, this ends up being a family drama – Cadfael visits the home of the novice, and it’s a complex emotional situation he finds there.

I really enjoyed this book – I’ve always liked the period details in these stories, but the sheer drama of this particular one was the draw – putting together the pieces and finding the right place for everyone at the end was very satisfying.

 

April Lady – Georgette Heyer

Yeah, I had to skim the last few chapters of this book.     It falls into Heyer’s older man marries younger woman seemingly for convenience, but it’s really a love match, except the two haven’t told each other, so shenanigans ensue trope.

In this case, the book unfolds with Lord Cardross (Giles) firmly scolded Lady Cardross (Nell) for some rather profligate spending in the last month.    All is forgiven, but he at least asks her to be careful in the future.    Well, Nell had overlooked one receipt, which happens to be a for a dress that was worth the exact amount that she lent to her brother, which of course she shouldn’t have, because he’s a gambler.     So she can’t tell Giles, he eventually figures out something is up, confusion reigns, bladdy bladdy blah.

Oh, and Giles has a younger half sister who is a confirmed ninny and wants to marry someone wildly unsuitable.   Fortunately, he’s too sensible to elope, but there’s still drama.

Yeah, not one of my favorite Heyer books.