This is a short read from a new-to-me writer, one of those who’s been publishing for some years and the earlier books are now available on Kindle. This one was first published in 1983, and like many books of that era, it’s heavily redolent of Georgette Heyer. The language, the faithful Regency setting and even some plot elements recall the great lady, but that’s not a bad thing at all.
Here’s the premise: Caroline Hetton has been effectively abandoned by her mother and her family since her father died, so she’s making her way in the world as a governess, a pretty thankless task in those days. Out of the blue, she’s offered a way out of this situation. A former neighbour has left a property to her heir, Vivyan Lagallan, with the stipulation that he won’t get it until he’s twenty-five, unless he marries sooner. And the will explicitly mentions Caroline as the bride, or another lady equally suitable. It’s hard for a mere governess to turn down such a beneficial opportunity, so Caroline agrees to visit the heir to see if they would suit.
All this is managed by the heir’s older half-brother, Major Lagallan, a stolid, steady sort, very different from the free-spirited Vivyan, who’s reminiscent of Heyer’s character Richmond of Unknown Ajax, or perhaps Ludovic of The Talisman Ring. It’s Vivyan, naturally, who leads everyone into trouble through his reckless ways, but he’s so charming that it’s impossible to dislike him. And while he’s stirring up trouble, Caroline and the stolid major are both realising that perhaps she’s marrying the wrong brother. How they resolve the tangle is the question, and I have to say it’s managed very neatly, if a little implausibly, and with a completely heart-stopping moment along the way. Cleverly done!
The romance is low-key, but that’s in the best traditions of Heyer herself, so I won’t grumble about it. Unlike some reviewers, to me it was always obvious how things were going and to my mind the slowly developing change of feelings is signalled quite clearly, if undramatically. An excellent read in the traditional style, with a great Regency feel. Five stars. You can find this book as part of a ‘four seasons’ boxed set, and if you like Melinda Hammond’s style, she also writes as Sarah Mallory.