Tag: hatch

Review: Manor For Sale, Baron Included by Esther Hatch (2021)

Posted May 14, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

OK, so this is frivolous to the extreme, and a pleasant palate-cleanser after an overdose of angst in the last book I read. Plausible? Not in the slightest, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Here’s the premise: Jonathan (or John), Lord Farnsworth, has inherited an awkward situation: several unprofitable entailed estates, which he can’t sell, and just one that he can sell to set him financially on his feet again. Trouble is, it’s the only one he regards as home, the place he was happiest, because it was where his mother lived. He really, really doesn’t want to sell it, but when he discovers that the potential buyer is a beautiful young woman, he’s intrigued. Maybe he can sell to Miss Duncan and then marry her, and get the estate back again? But he quickly discovers that Sally is very far from being impressed by his title or his person, and, what is worse, she’s doing all sorts of unspeakable things to the house. So that’s not going to plan, at all.

I have to say that John is rather an endearing character. He bumbles ineffectually around on the fringes of Sally’s life while she does her best to ignore him, and when that doesn’t work, to deter him. And he never wavers in his determination to marry Sally, finding ever more reasons for it as time passes and he slides slowly but irrevocably deep in love with her. She takes longer to reach that point, because although he thinks it will be easy to win her because of the title (all girls want to marry a nobleman, don’t they?), she is prejudiced against noblemen for good and sound reasons which he knows nothing about. So when he finally steps forward to propose, he’s shocked when she icily rejects him.

At this point I would really have liked the two to sit down and discuss just why they feel the way they do. John needed to tell Sally how much he loved her and not make it about the house, and she needed to explain her reservations, not to mention trying to get to know him a bit better. After all their interactions at this point, surely she owed him that and not simply making assumptions about him. But Sally the hard-nosed-business-woman doesn’t seem to be able to read John’s character the way she would in a business deal. In many ways, she’s not a very likeable person, but perhaps that’s due to her unusual upbringing, being given responsibility for a business. All the softer, more caring part of her personality is focused around her sister, but I’m not sure that’s enough to redeem her for the awful way she treats John.

To be honest, this is not a book I would normally read – it sounds too frivolous by half, and it’s true that the early chapters are pretty silly (although also pretty funny, especially the pond and the squirrel). It’s also a strange sort of world these characters inhabit. The Dorset house seems to exist in a vacuum, with no neighbouring gentry, not even the vicar, and Sally’s mother and another chaperon are conspicuous by their absence. What sort of mother stays in London enjoying herself while her two unmarried daughters take off for Dorset to live on their own? I know this is the Victorian age, not my usual Regency, but mores haven’t changed that much.

But the silliness of the opening chapters gives way later to a much more profound style, which I liked very much. The scene in the library is one that will stay with me for a long time (even though, once again, Mama is far too neglectful of her daughter; where was she while all that kissing was going on?). Sally is still wildly making assumptions almost to the end of the book, but happily everyone else gangs up on her to bring about the long-awaited happy ending. A very different read, for me, but enjoyable. Four stars.