From the desk of Christina Boyd
My affection for The Lord & Lady Baugham Stories commenced in 2007 when I discovered Twixt Two Equal Armies, a Pride and Prejudice spin-off (with Elizabeth Bennet & Fitzwilliam Darcy as supporting characters), that quickly created immense empathy for both protagonist– the stubborn, spirited Miss Holly Tournier who spars with the self-indulgent, droll Lord David Baugham – eventually surrendering to love despite their intentions.
The latest offering, and third book from the international writing team of Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton, is The West Yet Glimmers. The newlyweds finally arrive at his lordship’s ancestral seat of Cumbermere in Cheshire, having excessively suspended this domestic obligation thus far (recounted in Love Then Begins –a romantic novelette of a most blissful honeymoon at Clyne Cottage and an impulsive fancy at a crossroad, diverting them east to Pemberley House in Derbyshire.)
“Cumbermere is a crumbling and decaying estate; I am sure you will have no more love for it than I do. We will go there and we will fulfill our obligations: we will show our faces in church on Sunday, you will acquaint yourself with the staff and I will attend to the books and tenants and then we will leave. It will go on, as it always has, quite well without us. We have a duty, but aside from that duty, that place has no claim on us.” Love Then Begins, p.56.
But when an accidental finding hampers those plans for an early escape to London, his lordship (originally inspired from the Lord Brougham character of Pamela Aidan’s wildly popular, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series) is forced to search through his family’s painful past and disclose his own cloak-and-dagger truth.
Cumbermere Castle and its derelict state prove to be a disquieting challenge, a keeper of long, undisturbed secrets and unknown mystery. Their lives seemed unavoidably postponed, until they decipher an unwelcome family puzzle.
Holly blamed the weather, her husband’s natural restlessness, concern for her well-being, the house and his irritation with their time at Cumbermere stretching out against all intentions to the contrary, but all these perfectly valid reasons did nothing to quiet the melancholy voice inside her. She knew in her heart, however, that the absence of news from Chester weighed heavily on him and for some reason her too.” p.117
Her newly established duties as mistress including management of accounts, household staff, her foreseeable motherhood, as well as her habitual enigma of a husband were ancillary and oftentimes overwhelming proof of her elevation from a school teacher/librarian to Countess! Moreover, Lady Baugham’s niggling suspicions of having married more than a cheeky, wayward peer soon expose a reluctant hero. “The idea of him devoting hours of work to this end—to the discovery of what must be painful to him—frightened her. That his past professional endeavors had crossed into his personal affairs like this must be terrible.” p.270.
But all is not dark. Although his lordship disdains Cumbermere and all encompassing obligations therein, after all, they are still newlyweds and their affectionate banter is delightful. Even after an assiduous tour of the grounds, his lordship charms his wife,
“Now, since we ventured so far, braving rusty hinges, uneven floors, and general decadence, what do you say to transporting that decadence where it belongs—you’re your bedroom?’ ‘My bedroom?’ ‘I thought we could… look through gardening books – together—birds, bees, petals, stems, that sort of thing.’ ‘Now that is decadent, sir!’ she replied but not without amusement. They paused when they reached the front door, and he wrapped his arms around her. Leaning in, he nearly touched his lips to her ear, raising gooseflesh that had nothing to do with frigid weather when he whispered, ‘I would have thought a schoolmistress would know the amazing powers of a good book in the right hands and with the right… intonation.’” p.43
Swoon worthy indeed.
As a fervent fan of Regency Romances staring lively heroines, smart, clever discourse and amusing gentlemen, I loved, loved, loved this book. The collaborative efforts of Gail McEwen and Tina Moncton set a sparkling pace with believable dialogue, brilliant characterization, and esoteric historical detail in an ingenious Regency-era whodunit. Originally published on-line as Westmarch, The West Yet Glimmers has undergone professional editing and meticulous tightening of plot for a more polished offering. Consequently Darcy & Elizabeth may have started it, even been hosts to Lord & Lady Baugham in Book 2, but in Book 3, this is all Holly & David. And they have become nearly as dear to me as Darcy & Elizabeth! One need not have read Pride & Prejudice to value this book. But due note: just as it is possible to read Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series out of order—the same may be attempted with The Lord & Lady Baugham Stories– but for true satisfaction and understanding, not necessarily recommended. The West Yet Glimmers is a triumph!
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
The West Yet Glimmers: Lord and Lady Baugham Stories, by Gail McEwen & Tina Moncton
Meryton Press (2012)
Trade paperback (312) pages
© 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose