Author: Georgette Heyer
Copyright: 1968 (original)’ 2000 (Harlequin); 396 pgs.
Who: Kate Melvern and Philip Broome
Where & When: England, 1817/1818
As author Teresa Medeiros states in the Forward, this book is a departure — more Gothic suspense than high comedy — yet it is not as dark as other Gothics, because it still contains Heyer’s trademark secondary characters and humor.
The lovely orphaned and penniless Kate Melvern is at the end of her rope, so to speak. Released from her governess position for being too young, too pretty, and not accomplished enough, Kate has returned to her own nurse, Sarah Nidd and is seriously considering hiring herself out as a lady’s maid or seamstress. Sarah won’t hear of it and she writes to Lady Broome, half-sister of Kate’s father. Estranged, Kate has never met her Aunt Minerva and only knows what her father has told her of her ambitious relative. Kate has serious doubts that Lady Broome will help to her, so she is doubly shocked when her aunt comes in person to invite her to Staplewood.
Staplewood is the ancestral home of the Broome’s. The current baronet, Sir Timothy, is many years older than Aunt Minerva — who is his second wife — and his health is in decline. Their only child, Torquil, is a bit of an oddity. He has never been sent away to school and he has no friends. Prone to mood swings and severe headaches, his health is considered delicate and the young man is hardly ever out of the sight of his doctor or some member of the household.
Though Lady Broome is very kind and generous, Kate begins to feel crushed by such generosity and wonders how she will be able to ever repay her aunt. Though Kate has begged her aunt to allow her to be useful, Lady Broome has reassured her that Kate spending time with Torquil is ample repayment. Kate is bored with the idle lifestyle. There are no balls or other house parties — except the one dinner party attended by only Sir Timothy’s friends — to break up the monotony, and Torquil’s behavior makes him a poor companion.
The arrival of Mr. Philip Broome, Sir Timothy’s beloved nephew, adds some excitement and change to the household. Philip and Lady Broome do not like each other. She resents the influence Philip has with Sir Timothy and the high regard Sir Timothy has for Philip. Torquil is alternately happy to see him and convinced that Philip is out to get him. For his part, Philip is leery of Kate and believes her to be a fortune hunter with an eye on Torquil. After a couple of uninterrupted conversations with her, he soon realizes that he’s mistaken in regards to her character, and that she is unaware of the real situation at Staplewood.
I really enjoyed this book. Kate is one of the more level-headed, practical, Heyer heroines. Philip is strong, but not unduly arrogant and can admit that he may be wrong about what’s going on at Staplewood. Of course, they are perfectly suited for each other and the scene in which Philip proposes to Kate is the highlight of the book.
And one final note: Torquil? Seriously??
Started: 25 January 2009
Finished: 2 February 2009