Cousin Kate, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Chris of book-a-rama

Kate Malvern just lost her job as governess and is staying with her old nurse Sarah until she gets a new situation. Sarah doesn’t like the idea of her Kate, whose father was a gentleman despite being a soldier and a gambler, hiring herself out to anyone who asks. Kate lived under all kinds of circumstances all over Europe so a little hard work doesn’t bother her. Still, Sarah can’t let it go so with the help of her crusty father-in-law, Mr. Nidd, she writes to the only relative Kate is aware of, Lady Broome of Staplewood.

At first, it looks like Lady Broome, or Aunt Minerva, is an answer to Kate’s prayers, offering her a place to stay for the summer. Kate starts to feel uneasy when Aunt Minerva gives her lavish gifts. There must be a catch. Lady Broome doesn’t seem like someone willing to give something for nothing. When she offers Kate a way to pay back her generosity, involving her handsome but unstable son, Torquil, Kate knows she has to get out of Dodge. Can she enlist the help of her other cousin Philip who thinks she’s a gold digger? Or rely on her own wits to disentangle herself from Staplewood?

Every Georgette Heyer novel I read becomes my new favourite and Cousin Kate is no exception. I loved Kate right from the beginning. She’s a practical girl with a sensible head on her shoulders. Plus, she’s sassy. She can go toe to toe with Lady Broome and her machinations. She also manages to charm just about everyone in the Staplewood household. Lord Broome treats her like a daughter and Torquil is calmer in her presence. Lady Broome is sufficiently nasty without becoming cartoonish. The dialogue between Philip and Kate is the best I’ve read from Heyer yet. Their back and forth is a lot like Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Philip never really gets the better of her.

Cousin Kate is a fun story with an engaging plot. I wanted to know what the deal was with Torquil and what scheme did Lady Broome have up her sleeve. A cast of engaging characters added some humour to the story. There was nice mix of suspense and romance. Of course, I was never really worried that things wouldn’t work out for Kate. This is Heyer after all!

*****

I had written this review over a year ago. I still feel this way about Cousin Kate. Looking back, I can see that it’s a darker book than some of her others. This was one of her later works, the third last to be published before her death in 1974. Kate is fiercely independent, unwillingly to be beholden to anyone, particularly financially. Considering how Heyer tended to be in financial trouble herself often enough, I wonder if she saw herself in Kate.

I can certainly see the appeal of a strong, independent heroine to women at the time, women themselves struggling for independence in the workforce. I still count this as one of my top Heyer reads.

Cousin Kate, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2009)
Trade paperback (384) pages
ISBN: 978-1402217685

When she’s not reading, Chris is wrangling husband, child and various pets in Nova Scotia, Canada. The 30-something blogger of book-a-rama, her most loved books are often classics. Her favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre. Chris has been sharing her thoughts on a variety of books in numerous genres on her blog since 2007. She also helps administrate the Spotlight Series blog and hosts The Daphne du Maurier Reading Challenge. You can follow her on Twitter as Chrisbookarama.

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 18 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Cousin Kate, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 18   Aug 30 – Review: Charity Girl
Day 19   Aug 31 – Review: Lady of Quality
Day 19   Aug 31 – Essay: Heyer Heroes
Day 19   Aug 31 – Event wrap-up

Celebrating Georgette Heyer   •   August 1st – 31st, 2010

29 thoughts on “Cousin Kate, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

  1. Have not read this one, not even sure I’ve even heard of it. I’m fascinated by the reviewer’s comment that this is a darker novel than many others. The characters certainly sound different and intriguing.

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  2. I’m really looking forward to this one. You might be right about Heyer putting a bit of herself into Kate. I’ve heard mixed reviews on this particular title, so I can’t wait to read it for myself. Thanks for the review!

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  3. I haven’t read Cousin Kate yet, but it sounds like a wonderful book. This review really makes me want to read it to see the witty dialogue between Kate and Phillip, and also just to read about such a strong heroine.

    Great review!

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  4. One of the lovely things about Heyer is that she rarely writes the “generic” romance–she is always putting a twist to it. This is the book where she applies the “Gothic romance” twist, much in the way that Austen does in Northanger Abbey. It’s not one of my favorites as a result, from a story point of view, but it is as usual very well done.

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    • That’s interesting Rhonda. I’m a big fan of gothic romance- Jane Eyre, Rebecca- so maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Heyer still manages to add that humour she does so well though.

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  5. I agree with you, Chris, that (almost) “every Georgette Heyer novel I read becomes my new favourite;” each is enjoyable in it’s own way. In my opinion, this one does not have much “romance,” but still, it’s a GH, so it’s well-written and enjoyable. Thanks for the review.

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  6. This sounds fantastic!
    I am a big Pride and Prejudice fan, so if the banter is like Elizabeth and Darcy, I’m definitely in!

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  7. Hmmm… not sure I will take to the ‘gothic romance’ influence of this one. Thanks for such a candid review, Chris! =)

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  8. Although the beginning and the characterizations are up there with other GHs, the ending simply fails. One cannot celebrate a happy romance in such circumstances.

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  9. I haven’t read this one in years, but you have sparked my interest again. I seem to remember a feeling of doom, mixed with comedy and good lines, kind of like Arsenic and Old Lace, and waiting for Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre to take over the house.

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  10. Thanks for the review. I am intrigued by the character of Kate and he whole plot. I love the scheming of her relations and how she’ll have to use her practicality to find her way out and into her own person.

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  11. No need to say, really, why this one is intriguing. Is it a Gothic or an anti-Gothic? Thoughts?

    Lady Broome sounds like a great character. I love a good villainess.

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  12. This was the second Heyer novel I ever read and perhaps it is that fact that make me less severe with it than many other Heyer fans are. Because admittedly, Cousin Kate is among the less appreciated ones and after having read her other novels, I understood why. The gothic touch is not to everyone’s taste and I am not particularly fond of gothic in general, then of course the story and characterization are less briliant than other ones, yet overall, even the lesser Heyers like this are perhaps better than several current bestsellers.

    To answer NC Graham question, IMHO it is gothic, what Catherine Morland did not find at Northanger Abbey, she would have found it at Staplehood.

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    • PS – I forgot to mention, what is with this cover now, there has been mistakes in a few ones before, but now we are given a portrait which to me looks like from Tudor times.

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      • Ha! I just noticed the cover for the post. My copy is much older version from Arrow and while it doesn’t quite capture the gothic elements of the book, she is at least wearing a Regency style gown.

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  13. I will be putting Cousin Kate on my list of Heyer’s to read, it sounds engaging, a bit mysterious and charming.

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  14. I’m intrigued by the Gothic twist and the fact that it is, of course, sure to be a delight since its a Heyer novel.

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  15. Another one for the reading list! I like the sound of Kate’s character. I like reading about young women who are forced to make their way in the world.

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  16. This does sound quite a bit darker than Heyer’s usual fare–and there’s the appeal to me. Can she handle the less pleasant side of life as well as she does witty, amusing characters?

    And reading this review I want to know… how exactly is Torquil “unstable?” Mentally? Financially? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  17. Thias was probably my least favorute of Heyer’s books-maybe because it was so dark. I want to read it again with an eye to the Gothic details. I liked the way Philip camr to change his mind about Kate.

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