Review: The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

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.

 

Advertisements

Victober 2017 | Wuthering Heights and Vanity Fair

This year, for the first time, I set myself the exciting challenge of participating in Victober!

For those who aren’t aware, Victober is basically a month-long readathon of Victorian literature throughout October. It’s run by a group of booktubers who each set a challenge for the month, and I first heard about it over on Lucy Powrie’s channel (@lucythereader) as she is one of the hosts.

The challenges for this year were:

  1. Read a Victorian book by a Scottish, Welsh or Irish author
  2. Read a lesser-known Victorian book
  3. Read a Supernatural Victorian book
  4. Read a Victorian book that someone recommended to you
  5. Read a Victorian book by a female author.

As I hadn’t previously read much Victorian literature, I decided from the outset not to push myself to complete as many challenges as possible, but rather to try out one or two books I’d been thinking of reading for ages as it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The first book I decided to read was Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, which met the criteria for both the supernatural and female author challenges. I had previously started Wuthering Heights a few years ago, but didn’t get very far because I didn’t feel it was for me. I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I had been reading a lot of Jane Austen at the time, and made the VERY BIG mistake of expecting Emily Brontë’s novel to be similar!

I decided to approach it this time with a fresh perspective – and I’m so glad I did, because it is now one of my favourite novels! The entire story was utterly captivating; never have I disliked an entire cast of characters so much, yet simultaneously been so desperate to know what will become of them! With each fresh page of drama, revenge and misery, I found myself completely gripped – and once I’d finally reached the end, I was hit by the biggest book hangover I’ve ever experienced, unable to stop thinking about it even days later.

Still, I knew I must plough on – so the second Victorian book I picked up was Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thakeray. It had been recommended to me by my boyfriend’s mum, so it fulfilled the recommended read challenge, and I decided now would be a great time to read it because it’s so dense that I would normally baulk at the idea!

This novel is a parody of early 19th century society – a concept which sparked my interest straight away due to my love of writing Regency Historical Fiction. Oddly, it also had some aspects in common with Wuthering Heights: most of the characters here were unlikable, too, and like Wuthering Heights, it also involves two closely involved families and spans multiple generations.

Although I did enjoy Vanity Fair, though, it couldn’t really compare to Wuthering Heights for me. Maybe it was the lingering book hangover, but at times I found getting through Thakeray’s lengthy novel rather a slog. There were moments of sparkling wit and humour – but there were also entire chapters which I felt did little to further the plot or capture my interest. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s a novel I’ll reread.

And so concluded my first Victober! I’m so glad I took part – I became more familiar with Victorian literature as a whole, finding a new favourite novel in the process! I’m already looking forward to joining in again next year, and would recommend anyone who wants to read more Victorian literature to participate too.