Tag: matthews

Review: The Lady Next Door by Laura Matthews (1981)

Posted November 15, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

A glorious read, and the first book in a while that I couldn’t bear to put down. Sensible characters who know their own mind from the start, not one but three (and a bit) romances to enjoy, and a hero who (praise be!) isn’t browbeaten by his harridan of a mother, but deals with her absolutely firmly and immovably. I get so tired of noblemen who crumble at the first sign of disapproval from Mama, so bonus points for that. And not a misunderstanding or an elopement or a kidnapping in sight. Wonderful.

Here’s the premise: Marianne Findlay comes from a good family, but eight years ago her reputation was destroyed by the actions of the Countess of Latteridge. Now she’s struggling to make ends meet by taking in lodgers in the dilapidated York house she’s fortuitously inherited, with her grumpy spinster aunt for company. One of the lodgers has decided that he would like to marry her, owing to the rather fine house she now owns, and the other is busy trying not to blow up said house with his experiments, but Marianne can deal with them. Slowly, she’s finding her feet in society again, albeit at a much lower level than before, and Aunt Effie has hopes that a match can be made with nice Dr Thorne, who seems to enjoy Marianne’s company. But now there’s trouble brewing, for their York refuge happens to be next door to the Earl of Latteridge’s house, and the whole family, including his mother, is about to take up residence for the autumn and winter season.

Marianne can’t avoid the family entirely, and she soon finds that the earl’s younger brother, Harry, is an enthusiastic charming young man, enthralled by the creations of her inventor lodger. Even the earl, when he arrives, is a pleasant and sensible man, not at all the disapproving and haughty peer she’d expected. His sister, too, is lovely and quite unbothered by Marianne’s supposedly disreputable past. So things are humming along nicely, until the Countess of Latteridge discovers Marianne’s presence next door and sets about making her displeasure widely known.

There’s nothing terribly surprising about how the plot unravels, but the Earl of Latteridge is very much the perfect hero, who sees Marianne as his future wife almost from the start and sets about making it happen with single-minded determination, and won’t allow anything or anyone to get in his way, least of all his mother. The two have a couple of glorious scenes where he simply exerts his authority firmly and she has no choice but to surrender. Highly enjoyable! I love me a hero who does the right thing at once with no dithering. The rest of the assemblage of characters are perhaps a little too good-natured to be realistic, but it makes a change from the usual black-hearted villainy that seems to be a staple of Regencies. Marianne was perhaps a little bland for my taste, but it’s a small quibble. The romance is entertaining, especially as the earl finally wins his lady by overcoming her objections one by one – very cleverly done.

An unusual premise but a highly entertaining read, set in York for a change and actually set at some unspecified Georgian period, so not a Regency at all, but apart from a few details of dress and the lodger’s inventions, there’s not a great deal of difference. I’ve only read one other book by this author, The Nomad Harp, and I enjoyed that, too. I’ll have to look for more of the author’s books. Five stars.



Review: ‘The Nomad Harp’ by Laura Matthews [Trad]

Posted December 17, 2016 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is the first of my birthday Regencies (a selection from 1980 to the present bought with my gift cards), the earliest, written in 1980. The author is new to me, and I found it an enjoyable read, with some humour and a nicely drawn romance.

The premise: a career naval officer finds himself unexpectedly inheriting a viscountcy. He feels obliged to retire from the navy to manage his estates, but there’s a wrinkle: he’s betrothed to a woman he scarcely knows, attracted by her virtuoso playing of the harp. When he goes to visit, he finds her unimpressed by his elevation in rank. She had accepted his offer only because he would be away at sea a great deal, which would allow her to maintain her independent lifestyle. She breaks off the engagement after discovering that he’s falling for a much more suitable young lady.

But naturally, that isn’t the end of things. The story devolves into the usual Regency mix-ups and misunderstandings, albeit more believable than is sometimes the case, with an array of minor characters to liven things up. But it’s the main characters which make or break a story like this, and here I had my doubts. Lord Pontley himself is a fairly straightlaced sort of chap, too dour to be obvious hero material, and I confess to not entirely understanding his motives for dealing with the suitable young lady he finds himself engaged to. Indeed, for a serious sort of chap, he gets engaged for the most frivolous of reasons. Still, I rather liked him.

The heroine, Glenna Forbes, I found less likable. For a supposedly forthright and independent-minded young lady, she was a terrible ditherer. It’s conventional in fiction that when a character proposes a plan that the reader can clearly see is going to happen, there’s still a certain amount of argument round and about before it’s agreed to. Here, Glenna protested against perfectly reasonable proposals for far, far too long. I really wanted to slap her upside the head. And some of the things she does are just plain silly (like the whole companion scheme, for instance). The only purpose that I could see was so that she would find out about Lord Pontley’s feelings for the suitable young lady.

Despite all that, however, I found the book very enjoyable. I love a Regency where the romance builds slowly over the whole book, and this is particularly credible example. The minor characters are terrific, the historical accuracy is good and there’s enough humour to leaven the mixture. Four stars.