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The Reluctant Widow Paperback – October 1, 2008
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Georgette Heyer is best known for her witty and charming Regency romances, but she is also responsible for a handful of mystery novels. On occasion, mystery would find its way into her romances, embroiling her well-born heroes and heroines in adventures that were alternately chilling and hilarious. In The Reluctant Widow, Eleanor Rochdale, a young woman of good birth but straitened circumstances, sets out to accept a position as a governess and ends up plunged into a tangle of foreign intrigue instead.
Eleanor's adventure begins when she inadvertently mistakes the carriage waiting at the coach stop for one sent by her prospective employer, Mrs. Macclesfield. She finds herself carried to the estate of one Ned Carlyon, whom Eleanor mistakes for Mr. Macclesfield. Carlyon, meanwhile, believes Eleanor to be the young woman he hired to marry his dying cousin, Eustace Cheviot, in order to avoid inheriting Cheviot's estate himself. Somehow, Eleanor is talked into marrying Eustace on his deathbed and thus becomes a wealthy widow almost as soon as the ring is on her finger. What starts out as a simple business arrangement soon becomes much more complicated as housebreakers, uninvited guests, a shocking murder, missing government papers, and a dog named Bouncer all contribute to this lively, frequently hilarious tale of mistaken identities, foreign espionage, and unexpected love set during the Napoleonic Wars. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"This book was nothing short of pure delight...Heyer was a talented writer, indeed. " - My Friend Amy
"I'd highly recommend The Reluctant Widow to any Austen fans, or anyone who enjoys historical fiction. " - S. Krishna's Books
" I was charmed by her characters and entertained by her wit and engaging plot... The Reluctant Widow is a must-read." - Traci's Book Blog
"The Reluctant Widow reminds me much of a classic mystery tale, with the plot moving at an increasingly frantic pace, filled with quirky characters and comic mishaps." - Book Zombie
"Mystery. Suspense. Great wit. Great characters. Fast-paced... Definitely recommended." - Becky's Book Reviews
"If you are looking for good historical fiction with mystery and a dash of romance, pick up a copy of The Reluctant Widow ." - The Book Worm
"I enjoyed reading as the story unfolded and we discovered something new with each page. With The Reluctant Widow, Ms. Heyer once again demonstrates her wit and attention to detail with this delightful book." - Jennifer's Random Musings
"I was hooked from the get-go with The Reluctant Widow... a little bit of mystery, a little bit of farce but a fully, fun, fast read. This is probably my favorite Heyer so far. " - Book-a-Rama
" If you haven't read Georgette Heyer or would not normally pick up a historical romance, I strongly encourage you to give The Reluctant Widow a try" - The Literate Housewife
"Interesting characters and a well thought out plot made this into a fun read from start to finish." - Linus' Blanket
" It's a very enjoyable tale with Heyer's usual quality prose and historical research enhancing the feel of the story." - Curled Up with a Good Book
"Heyer did a fantastic job building up the suspense with lots of twists and turns in the plot and even threw in a little comedy for relief." - Ex Libris
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Top Customer Reviews
That said, I didn't find myself enjoying The Reluctant Widow as much as I have some of Ms. Heyer's other efforts. I found the character of Nicky, the adolescent younger brother of Ned, Lord Carlyon, the ever calm, stalwart hero, to be more annoying than humorous. As the novel progressed, found myself skimming over passages dealing with him and his antics. Neither could I build too much affection for Elinor, our heroine or for Ned, who I found to be too remote for my taste. While Elinor exhibited a certain amount of pluck, I felt that she gave in too often to Ned's oh-so-rational assurances and explanations. I also felt that he came off as too patronizing. So much so in fact, that his proposal and Elinor's acceptance didn't feel believable to me.
Bottom line: The Reluctant Widow is vintage Georgette Heyer, but it isn't one of my favorites.
The genius of this book is not that it it makes precise geometric sense, but that you don't really care about it being ridiculous. All the characters are so sharp and interact with each other so smoothly that I don't really care. I care that there are exchanges like this:
<cite>"Well, it was sufficient to explain it all to me," Carlyon admitted. "Once a performing bear had entered Nicky's orbit, the rest was inevitable."</cite>
I like them all, even the nominal villain, and my liking is such that I don't care what ridiculous thing they are doing. It's like watching a favorite actor, even if they are in a silly movie.
Read if: You like the mystery-coincidence variant of Heyer novels. See also The Talisman Ring.
Skip if: You're in it for the plausible romance where the heroine gets a clue before the last 5 pages.
Overall: 5 stars
Performance: 5 stars
Story: 5 stars
Q. If you were to make a film of this book, what would the synopsis be?
A. In England of the Regency period, Miss Elinor Rochdale, an attractive, twenty-six-year-old, orphaned gentlewoman, reluctantly arrives on the stage at the village of Billingshurst in Sussex for her first position as a governess since her father’s death left her in poverty. She is met by a carriage she wrongly assumes has been provided by her new employer, a married lady with a young son, when the driver asks if she has come in response to an advertisement. On arriving at a dilapidated mansion after a long drive through the night, she is introduced not to her employer, but to a distinguished gentleman in his mid-thirties named Lord Carlyon. Like the woman requiring a governess, he placed an advertisement in the paper, hence the confusion. However, he advertised not for a governess, but for a woman willing to wed his cousin, Eustace Cheviot. Elinor is appalled at the suggestion that she participate in a marriage in name only with Eustace, whom Carlyon freely admits is a drunken reprobate. His motivation for this excessively odd arrangement is that Lord Carlyon is Eustace’s primary heir and does not want to inherit from his cousin, whose loathing of Carlyon is fully reciprocated. Unfortunately, before Elinor can make her refusal immutably clear to him, Lord Carlyon’s 18-year-old brother Nicky precipitously arrives, exclaiming that he has accidentally stabbed Cousin Eustace, who now lies dying in an inn a few miles distant. Lord Carlyon increases the strength of his matter-of-fact persuasion of Elinor to marry his cousin to such an extent that she is carried away by the force of his personality and the utter confidence in milord expressed by every person in his vicinity. Within hours she is Eustace’s wife, and within hours after that, she becomes a reluctant widow.
Q. What does Cornelius Garrett bring to this story that you would not experience if you just read the book?
A. For a novel to work well as an audiobook, two factors are essential: (1) It must be exceptionally well written in order to thrive beneath the intense scrutiny of being read out loud at a fraction of the pace that a reader could read the book silently to herself. The Reluctant Widow passes that test with flying colors. (2) The narrator must be an excellent performer, able to convincingly portray every kind of character, from old to young, male or female, and different nationalities. Cornelius Garrett is one of the best narrators I’ve ever listened to, achieving all of these requirements magnificently. When I had previously read this book to myself silently, I thought it was mildly amusing but not one of Georgette Heyer’s funniest books. Mr. Garrett does such a fabulous job of acting out each of the characters, however, I was frequently laughing out loud due to the skill of his remarkable performance.
Q. What was one of the most memorable moments of The Reluctant Widow?
A. There are endless things to love about Georgette Heyer’s Regency comedies, but a particular brilliance of hers as an author are her quirky casts of subcharacters, each drawn with a wonderfully unique voice. In this particular book, my two favorite subcharacters are Nicky, Lord Carlyon’s youngest brother, and his gigantic, sweet-tempered, but poorly trained dog Bouncer. The two of them are absolutely hilarious, both separately and together. Heyer creates a great deal of comedy from lovable Bouncer’s well-meaning, guard-dog mistakes. The funniest scene with Bouncer for me is when he misunderstands Nicky’s command to keep Elinor safe by guarding her while Nicky runs an errand. Bouncer wrongly interprets Nicky’s order to mean that he must guard Elinor as if she is a dangerous individual whom he must not allow to escape. As a result, dear old Bouncer refuses to allow her to stir out of her chair for long, irritating hours until Nicky returns and calls him off. The many failed efforts of Elinor and the household staff to bribe Bouncer to let her go are hilarious.
Q. Which character--as performed by Cornelius Garrett--was your favorite?
A. It is hard to pick only one. Of particular note is Mr. Garrett’s performance of Nicky’s adorable, youthful enthusiasm, the country wisdom of the butler Barrow who has a thick Sussex accent, and the sweet, unworldly remarks of Elinor’s middle-aged, former governess and current companion, Miss Beccles (nicknamed Becky).
Q. Any additional comments?
A. I was delighted to discover this recording, which offers me the opportunity to enjoy one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors in the form of an outstanding audiobook.
This publisher seems to hold digital readers in total contempt.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
the entire book I just wanted to shake her by the shoulders!Read more