Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cousin Kate


Heyer, Georgette. 1968. Cousin Kate.

At no time during the twenty-four hours was the Bull and Mouth Inn a place of quiet or repose, and by ten o'clock in the morning, when the stage-coach from Wisbech, turning top-heavily out of Aldersgate, lumbered into its yard, it seemed, to one weary and downcast passenger at least, to be post-chaise to a wagon, with its shafts cocked up and the various packages and bundles it carried strewn over the yard.

Kate Malvern is our heroine in Georgette Heyer's Cousin Kate. The novel is deliciously dark. It is the story of a a woman, a woman of four and twenty, who being orphaned and recently fired from her job as a governess comes to leave with her aunt and uncle. Aunt Minerva, Sir Timothy, Cousin Torquil are the rather strange residents of Staplewood. A house that seems to be a character in and of itself as far as mood and ambiance are concerned. Minerva is her father's half-sister. And Kate is meeting this side of her family for the very first time. Being quite penniless, she's very thankful that Minerva and her husband (who is twenty years older than his wife) are willing to take her in. But it doesn't take her very long to realize that there's something not quite right about the situation--the house, the servants, her cousin, her aunt, etc. Her instincts are telling her that something is really not right. There's the fact that she hears a few screams. The fact that her aunt locks her into her room each night. There's the strangled animal(s) she comes across in the woods.

But one good at least comes from Kate's accepting the charity of her aunt and uncle. She meets "cousin" Philip. The nephew of Sir Timothy. Philip isn't immediately drawn to Kate. He thinks her to be taking advantage of Sir Timothy. He believes her to be in cahoots with Aunt Minerva and scheming to get her pretty little hands on the Staplewood estate. But a few meetings with her--a few short conversations--convinces him that they don't come sweeter than Kate. And he learns that most everyone likes her because she is genuinely good and sweet and kind. She's "quality" though penniless. A true human being worthy of respect and devotion. If only...if only he could find a way to save her from the "crushing" generosity of Aunt Minerva before it's too late.

This one isn't quite as dark and deliciously spooky as Jane Eyre or Rebecca, yet it had in some ways a similar vibe. There was an intense creepiness that just gives this one a gothic feel.

For fans of historical fiction, light mystery with a teeny gothic touch, and romance.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

2 comments:

Juxtabook said...

I think Cousin Kate, though not one of her best, is very interesting for its Gothic mystery features. Heyer does mystery well in her historical fiction. I like the Toll Gate, the Masqueraders, The Reluctant Widow and the Quiet Gentleman too; all are less Gothic but work the mix of historical romance and mystery very well. I haven't read Cousin Kate for years so thank you for the prompt, I shall be re-reading.

sequesterednooks said...

Wow, I love the middle one of these covers! Not quite what you'd expect on a regency romance. :)