As soon as I started reading I knew this was one of those daft plots that only Georgette Heyer can pull off successfully. When a book starts with a young lady getting into the wrong carriage and going to a bachelor’s house instead of the establishment where she is supposed to become a governess, you know it’s going to be a wild ride. And it was. French spies, murder, accidental death, large dogs, secret staircases, a short marriage and a reluctant widow.
Despite the over-the-top quality of the plot, the characters (mostly) pulled it off for me. Carlyon is one of Heyer’s more attractive heros; he does tend to ride rough-shod over people, but at the same time he actually cares about them. Even the villain, once his motives were revealed, seems more sympathetic than he ought to be. Probably the weakest character was actually Elinor, the heroine and titular widow. Unfortunately, although she promised to be one of the heroines with a backbone at the beginning of the novel, she seemed a little too pointed for me. That’s not exactly what I’m trying to say, but I can’t quite express it. She never quite became real.
Still, she’s generally sympathetic and the novel is strong enough that I was willing to sit back and enjoy the ride without worrying too much about probability or character flaws. Recommended for a lazy rainy day.
“Once a performing bear had entered Nicky’s orbit the rest was inevitable.”
“‘But I do not want to be a widow!’ declared Elinor.
‘I am afraid it is now too late in the day to alter that,’ said Carlyon.
‘Besides, if you had known my cousin better you would have wanted to be a widow,’ Nicky assured her.”
A bit of a let-down after The Nonesuch; I suspect I would have liked it better if I hadn’t had Waldo and Ancilla in my head still. Unfortunately, the heroine of this one is such a drip! [Oct. 2011]
Book source: Inter-library loan