After enjoying April Lady so much, I was keen to pick up another Georgette Heyer novel – and the premise of The Reluctant Widow immediately sparked my interest.
The story begins with Elinor Rochdale, a young lady on her way to accept a post as a governess – but when she steps into the wrong carriage, she ends up at the home of a complete stranger named Edward Carlyon, who somehow persuades her into marrying his dying cousin. A bride and a widow in the very same night, Elinor is now left to deal with the consequences of her late husband’s death.
Georgette Heyer wrote several mysteries in addition to her historical romances, and there is some crossover in this novel, with a strong element of mystery running throughout it. Although there is an aspect of romance, the gothic style mystery is definitely the main theme, and I found this very refreshing.
This isn’t a deadly serious novel, though – there is plenty of wit, and the hilarious interactions between the various members of the Carlyon family are written brilliantly, occasionally making me laugh out loud. With the addition of the family dog as a main character, this novel is definitely a family affair, which is an aspect I really liked.
No review of this novel would be complete without mentioning how much I liked Elinor’s character. At twenty six years of age, she’s a little more mature than the typical protagonist in a Regency historical romance. Elinor is sharp and witty with a practical way of looking at things, and I really enjoyed reading about an independent female character in this time period.
Like April Lady, I found the story a little slow to begin with – but it was well worth persevering, as the pace soon picked up with plenty of intrigue and drama. Overall it was a colourful, entertaining novel rich with historical context, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.