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
Trade paperback (384) pages
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 the continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
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