The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

 The Light Over London cover

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly was first published in 2019. It’s a dual time novel with the setting being in WW2 London 1941 and 2017 Gloucestershire. This type of structure often works well but at times they can be annoying if you are enjoying the story and the timeline suddenly switches away from it. The author is American but is now living in London.

Cara has recently divorced and relocated to Gloucestershire where she has got a job with an antiques dealer who does house clearances. When she finds a wartime diary in an old tin while helping with valuations and house clearing she asks her boss Jock if she can keep the diary and he’s happy for her to do so. The diary has been written by a woman who had run away and joined the army to do her bit, rather than stay at home and marry the young man that her rather bullying mother had planned out for her future.

The diary comes to an abrupt end and Cara is keen to find out what happened. She’s helped in her task by Liam, her new and rather good-looking neighbour. So the book contains two romances and a bit of a mystery, unfortunately for me it just didn’t work, in fact there are so many anomalies in the writing that I took to keeping a note of them, this might seem like nit-picking but if you are setting a book in England and all the characters are English then it’s important not to import Americanisms into it as it jars so badly.

The most obvious one was the use several times of the word purse where it should have been handbag.

The word blond was used to describe a woman but the ‘e’ also appeared in the next sentence, otherwise it was without the ‘e’.

The word stand-down was used in relation to the end of the war.

Card shark is used a few times, it should of course be card sharp, I have no idea if card shark is American.

Ticket taker should be ticket collector.

Do you think Princess Elizabeth will serve? The phrase in the UK is/was join up.

Off ramp was used when it should have been slip road, and tea kettle was used instead of just kettle.

In other words the book is in need of being edited to weed out the incongruous Americanisms – as well as the cornier romance parts.

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer

Cousin Kate cover

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1968, so it was the third last of her books and for me it seemed quite different from her other romances. The actual romance part was more or less over by around the middle of the book, and there was a distinct lack of the witty repartee that I enjoy so much about her dialogue.

Kate Malvern has been brought up ‘following the drum’ as her father had been a professional soldier, her mother had died young, so Kate isn’t your average Regency lady. She has had to work as a governess to support herself and when she loses her job she has to move in with Mrs Nidd who was her nursemaid.

Sarah Nidd writes to Lady Broome who is Kate’s Aunt Minerva, asking if she can help her niece and the upshot is that Kate is taken by Lady Broome to stay at Staplewood, her large home. Her husband is Sir Timothy, a much older man and he has more or less withdrawn to his own wing of the house as his wife is an overbearing bully and he just won’t stand up to her. His only friend had been his nephew Philip, but Kate becomes the daughter that he had never had.

Kate realises that her aunt has an ulterior motive for her invitation to Stapleton, she wants Kate to marry her son Torquil. He’s completely in his mother’s control, he’s always had delicate health, but it’s his mental state that worries Kate. He has tantrums and generally behaves like a three year old and his mother employs Dr Delabole to dose him up when he has a turn. His mother is desperate for him to produce an heir, but it needs to be with a wife that would also be under the control of Minerva his mother, she thinks Kate would be the ideal wife. Kate thinks differently.

This book dragged for me a bit although I must admit it got a bit more interesting towards the end, but it isn’t one of her best, mainly because of the lack of humour and wit which I’ve come to expect from Heyer’s writing.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

The Grand Sophy cover

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1950 and it’s a hoot. Sophy’s father Sir Horace who is a widower takes Sophy to live with his sister Lady Ombersley while he has some work to do in South America. As Sophy is twenty years old she’s overdue for being introduced to society and Lady Ombersley promises her brother that she will arrange some balls for Sophy, along with her own daughter Cecilia who is just slightly younger. Lady Ombersley has a large family to cope with but the children are nothing compared with the problems that Lord Ombersley brings her. He’s a compulsive gambler and has piles of debts. Luckily the family home is entailed and although he tried to break the entail he wasn’t successful. He has handed the running of the family finances to his eldest son and heir Charles who is weighted down with cares before his time.

When Sophy arrives she’s not the shrinking violet they expected. She’s determined to do exactly what she wants – and to the devil with conventions. She’s a gifted horsewoman and in no time she has bought a carriage and pair of horses which would be the equivalent of a woman buying something like a V8 Ferrari nowadays. Her cousin Charles is appalled by her behaviour.

Sophy couldn’t be more different from the strait-laced Miss Wraxton that Charles is engaged to marry. She’s joyless and a nasty gossip and definitely not the right match for Charles, but that’s main theme of The Grand Sophy, everyone seems destined to be with the wrong partner, until Sophy gets to work on them all.

As you would expect this book is full of humour and the last chapters are more akin to a farce – but such fun!!

The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer

The Toll Gate cover

The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1955 and my copy is a Book Club hardback from that date. This is more of a mystery/adventure book and is quite light on the romance – which is fine by me.

Captain John Staples has recently left the army after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he had a bit of a reputation for being crazy amongst his fellow officers and he’s finding civilian life a bit boring, especially when he has to go to a family wedding in Derbyshire. The women in his extended family seem keen to find a wife for him, but they’re disappointed when he leaves the wedding early.

Looking for an inn to spend the night in John – or Jack as he’s generally known to his friends – gets lost and eventually reaches a roadside toll-gate which is being ‘manned’ by Ben a young and scared boy all on his own. It transpires that Ben’s father has gone missing and Ben fears the worst. Jack decides that he must find out what is going on.

This is a good light read with likeable characters and a plethora of Regency slang.

You might think that a toll-gate dates a book immediately to a certain era but it’s only a couple of years since we had to stump up all of 40 pence in the dead of night on a rural road somewhere around the English midlands. In fact not that long ago I saw such a house and business for sale in the Guardian, you would have to be a keen home body though as you would never be able to leave the place!

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

Blood and Beauty cover

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer is one of her Regency romances – a bit of a romp, but perfect holiday reading. It was first published in 1962 and this one has a lot of similarities with Jane Austen, more so than others of Heyer’s books I’ve read.

Sir Waldo Hawkridge is a wealthy, handsome and fashionable bachelor of thirty-five or six. In his younger days he was well known as a great athlete and he’s still held in high esteem by the younger males in society. In fact they are still emulating the somewhat crazy fashions that Hawkridge made popular years before, although he himself is dressing with much less fussiness in his old age. He was given the nickname of The Nonesuch meaning he was a paragon, nothing and no-one could better him.

In fact most people don’t realise quite what a paragon The Nonesuch is. Although he is wealthy he has an interest in orphans and the poor and when he inherits an estate from a miser of an uncle he decides to turn the house into another orphanage, but it’s all very secret as he doesn’t like to advertise his philanthropy.

Throw in three young male relatives and a bit of love interest, just when The Nonesuch thought he was past such things, it all adds up to an amusing and entertaining read.

The Foundling by Georgette Heyer

The Foundling by Georgette Heyer is quite different from the other romances which I’ve read by her. For one thing it isn’t really a romance as close to the beginning the young Duke of Sale is pushed into agreeing to marry an old childhood friend and cousin, Lady Harriet. The Duke was orphaned at a very young age and his guardian and uncle Lord Lionel has molly-coddled him all his life as he was a rather weak and sickly child.

Lord Lionel likes to be in control of everything and his over-bearing attitude makes Sale wish he wasn’t an aristocrat so when a relative gets into some woman trouble, Sale jumps at the chance to help out, leaving his aristocratic trappings behind and travelling as an ordinary chap.

He finds himself in all sorts of adventures and serious scrapes which he manages to extricate himself from and his experiences end up giving him the confidence which he needed to stand up for himself against all the relatives and staff who are so keen to control his life.

The character of Belinda, a young woman who has also run off from her former life makes for quite a lot of comedy as she agrees to go off with any man who says he will buy her a purple silk gown. It’s quite a task for the Duke to save her from her daftness.

It’s an enjoyable romp.

Right Royal Friend by Nigel Tranter

Right Royal Friend cover

Have you ever read anything by Nigel Tranter? When I added this book to Library Thing I noticed that only nine people have done so, I think that’s the lowest ever for me.

Anyway, Nigel Tranter was a Scottish author of historical fiction, amongst other things. He wrote more than 90 books and when he died in 2000 there must have been a queue of books waiting to be published because his books were still being published in 2007. This one was published in 2003. If you’re into Scottish history his books are a painless way of learning about it because they are historically correct and he wove his stories around the facts.

Right Royal Friend is mainly about David Murray, the second son of Sir Andrew Murray, and how a chance meeting with the then 14 year old King James VI of Scotland on a Scottish hillside led to him becoming a close friend of the monarch.

Queen Elizabeth I of England has James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots in captivity but James is only concerned with being named as Elizabeth I successor.

This is the first book by Tranter which I’ve read and I must say that I enjoyed it, but I have to say that there is necessarily quite a lot of info dumping which most Scottish people would probably already know about. I enjoy reading descriptions of landscapes and for me that was a bit lacking in this book, which is strange because I think of that as being a feature of Celtic writers.

The settings happen to be very close to where I live in Scotland and I’ve been in all of the castles and palaces which are mentioned so it was easy for me to imagine myself there but for other readers I think it would have added atmosphere if the buildings and villages had been better described too. I suppose that would have made the book a good bit longer though.

Anyway, I’ll certainly read more by Nigel Tranter and I’d recommend his books, especially to anyone who would like to know what was going on in Scotland’s history at a time when it tends to be England which is concentrated on. I think his books would be interesting for anyone visiting Scotland and intending to visit historic places.

Uncle Bernac by Arthur Conan Doyle

Well, who knew that Conan Doyle wrote historical novels, not me anyway, but this is one of them. I’ve only tried one other book of his and I can’t even remember what it was. It was one of the very few books which I just had to give up on, I normally plough on regardless, determined to finish a book and hoping that it’ll somehow get better, gnashing my teeth all the way to the bitter end. But Sherlock Holmes and I just didn’t get on, in fact if I had been left in a room with him alone and he started up on me with all his smug stuff, there just might well have been a murder! I know millions of people don’t agree, I’m obviously just odd but I don’t worry about it

Uncle Bernac originally belonged to my Great-Uncle Robert and it’s a 1912 copy. This is the front plate. It has been in our house for years now but I just realised recently that it is by Conan Doyle and that is why I decided to put it on Katrina’s 2011 Reading List.

It’s a story told by Louis de Laval of how when he was a child his French aristocratic parents had fled from the Revolution and ended up living in England. After Louis’ father dies he receives a letter from his Uncle Bernac asking him to return to France. However the words ‘Don’t Come’ have been faintly scribbled on the outside of the envelope, and Louis is in a quandary.

As he has always been a Republican and had a secret admiration for Napoleon he decides to go and try to present himself to the emperor in the hope that he will be able to make himself useful to him. The alternative is to stay on in England and a life of penury.

Getting to France is no easy task and Louis’ adventures begin sooner than he wishes. It’s set in 1803 with Napoleon’s army camped out along the coast of France preparing to invade Sussex and Kent. If you enjoy books set in that time and place then you’ll probably like this one, as I did.

Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

Friday's Child cover

This is the first Regency romance of Heyer’s that I have read, the only book of hers that I have previously read is the detective book Footsteps in the Dark.

I’m not a great fan of romances, that’s probably something to do with being married for about as long as I can remember. But I was encouraged to start reading one after seeing the reviews on the Classics Circuit.

The main characters in Friday’s Child are Lord Sheringham (Sherry) and Hero Wantage (Kitten) who decide to get married. Sheringham has just proposed to the beautiful Isabella and been ‘knocked back’ and quickly marries the very young Hero, mainly so that he can get his hands on his money which is being held in trust until he is 25 or married.

The book is about the scrapes that Kitten gets herself into because she isn’t ‘up to snuff’ as they say. She is too innocent and naive. Although Sherry had expected to be able to continue with his bachelor life-style unimpeded by his wife, he soon finds that keeping her out of trouble is a full time job.

About a third of the way through this book I suddenly heard a very strange sound, I got quite a fright until I realised that it was just a big sigh from me. I was finding the book a tad tedious and I did wonder about giving in on it, but I thought of my granny who was a big Heyer fan, and ploughed on.

Half-way through, I really started to enjoy it. I think you have to be in a frivolous, frothy frame of mind for this book. It is a very light romp through the Regency period.

Some people have complained that she uses too much period slang. Well she certainly does throw it all in but I didn’t find it to be a problem as it is always obvious from the context what is meant by it.

I’m hoping to read one of her more history heavy books next.