Elinor Rochdale, the daughter of a disgraced member of the aristocracy, is headed by coach to a rural village where she has been offered a position as a governess for a wealthy family. She is bored to tears by working as a governess, but since her father’s suicide, she has no other choice. Her extended family has been less than gracious to her. As she steps off the coach, a driver asks her if she is the one who answered the advertisement in the paper. After she says yes, she is shuttled into a wonderfully luxurious carriage and taken quite a distance. Although it is very cold outside, she is snug in the carriage and quite surprised that the family hiring her would go to such lengths to see that she arrives in comfort. What is not yet known is that the driver was talking about an entirely different advertisement. Mr. Carlyon posted for a woman to marry his disreputable cousin, Eustace Cheviot. This misunderstanding takes Elinor’s life into quite an unexpected and mysterious direction.
Carlyon, a wealthy landowner and Eustace’s reluctant guardian. He is under suspicion of acting in his own best interests, not his cousin’s. Because of Eustace’s near constant drunkenness and gambling problems, there wasn’t much in his estate that wasn’t owed to debtors. Still, Eustace held title to Highnoons, an estate he inherited from his mother, that was near Carlyon’s own estate. Highnoons was no price, however. Eustace let it fall into disrepair just as he had his own young body. As such, Carlyon was desperate to marry Eustace off, so that he would inherit nothing from the young man upon his death and thus be free of suspicion. When Elinor walks into his home, he sees her as the answer to his situation and will not take no for an answer. Despite her protests, Carlyon knew that she would accept his offer after he learned that she grew up in privilege. He may have found an inheritor for Highnoons, but he did not gain the return to a more trouble-free life. Elinor proved to be a tough customer, not easily won over like most others. Time and time again, Carlyon had to prove himself by her.
The Reluctant Widow is full of interesting characters, humor and farce. Elinor is a strong woman who, despite everyone’s deference to Mr. Carlyon, tries to stand up to his requests. She cannot understand why others, even those who have just met him, are so eager to follow his commands. She enjoys the fight every bit as much as he does. Nicky, Carlyon’s younger brother, and his dog Bouncer provide a lot of laughs as this young man tries clumsily to live up to his brother’s reputation. I enjoyed watching Elinor’s relationship with Nicky grow throughout the novel. Despite having married into the family only a few hours before becoming a widow, it is clear that Elinor was the right fit for that family. Nicky needed her solid feminine influence just as much as she needed his company to keep from growing too morose and frightened over the situation at Highnoons.
This is the first novel I have read outside of Jane Austen taking place in England’s Regency period and I absolutely loved it. It would be the perfect book to get lost in while curled up in bed or on the couch. I thought I was taking a chance on this book because I’m not one who normally reads books classified as historical romance. I’m afraid I may have underestimated the genre. Not all romances are equal and this is far from the a Harlequin title and more engaging to me than something by Danielle Steel. After just one novel, I can see her quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors. I am very excited that SourceBooks is reissuing many of Georgette Heyer’s 50+ novels. If you haven’t read Georgette Heyer or would not normally pick up a historical romance, I strongly encourage you to give The Reluctant Widow a try.
This review is lovingly dedicated to Dewey, a woman who helped make the book blogging community what it is today.
A special thanks to Bethany at B&b exlibris for designing this beautiful graphic.
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