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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 the Hardcover edition.
"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
I have loved her novels right from the start. I have read all of them more than once. Some I have read many times. The Reluctant Widow is one of the special ones that I have read so often I have lost count of how many times I have read it.
I have noticed with the passing years that the novels that I first liked the most, the really romantic ones, have palled some over the years and that it is the funnier ones that I read over more and more. Maybe it is because I was lacking romance in my life when I started reading Georgette Heyer but now I have had more than enough romance and I appreciate humor more.
It's true that there is not much romance in this novel, or not much outward signs of romance. It really is more of a comic mystery than a romance. Yet having read it so many times, I can now detect the subtle signs of developing love between Elinor and Ned, especially Ned. It seems that time after time Ned comes up with reasons why Elinor cannot leave and get on with her life. After reading it so many times, I think that Ned may very well have fallen in love with Elinor at first sight but is reticient to do anything about it for quite a while.
To be truthful, the romance in all of Georgette Heyers novels is always secondary to the plot. In many of her novels, the hero does not make clear his intentions until the last chapter, sometimes even as late as the last 2 pages of the novel. If you are a romance addict, this can be very tiresome, having to wait so long for the romantic part.
This Georgette Heyer novel is definitely one of her 5 star novels when considered as a novel and not necessarily as a romance. The comic elements in it never fail to amuse, no matter how many times it is read. It is a funny historical novel set in the regency period of England with just a tad of romance in the end.
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.
Although not as prevalent in this story as others the ''romantic' aspect was filled with lively banter between the two characters. This was my second time reading this particular Heyer novel and I did remember certain aspects of how the mystery was solved but she has such a beautiful writing hand that I didn't mind rereading it.
Recommendations: Anything else by Heyer.