Book Review: The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

I'd forgotten how delightful a Georgette Heyer novel can be. Having read all her regency romances in my early teenage years, picking this one up again after so long had all the excitement of a first time read.

The Nonesuch is one of Heyer's later and less popular novels (my favourite will always be The Black Moth, her debut novel and my introduction to this author) but it is still full of the wit, charm and endearing characters one expects to find in her light-hearted romances.

Sir Waldo Hawkridge (The Nonesuch) travels to Yorkshire with his younger cousin, Lord Lindeth, to inspect the estate he has recently inherited. The arrival of these two eligible bachelors in the village of Oversett causes a stir among the local gentry: mothers of marriageable daughters vie with one another to entertain them and the young men wish to emulate Sir Waldo due to his
reputation as a sportsman.

Sir Waldo, being over thirty, believes he is past the age of falling in love. That is, until he meets Ancilla Trent, governess and companion to the spoilt, self-centred, seventeen year old heiress, Tiffany Wield.

Tiffany, feted for her beauty, believes no man can resist her charms, and while Sir Waldo is quite immune, it is Lord Lindeth who falls under her spell and joins the ranks of her admirers.

Initially, the young men are eager to gain Tiffany's favour, despite her  abominable treatment of them, but one by one her admirers fall away when she throws one tantrum too many and the lies she has told are revealed.

Apart from her appealing characters and entertaining plots, one of Georgette Heyer's trademarks is her witty dialogue and The Nonesuch has it in abundance, enhanced by lots of delightful Regency slang.

Unusually for a Heyer novel, the romance unfolds quietly in the background, while the behaviour of Miss Trent's charge, Tiffany, dominates the story from start to finish. Perhaps this is the reason The Nonesuch is not as popular with Heyer's fans as her other books, but I enjoyed it. Tiffany's tantrums were amusing and the romance between Ancilla and Sir Waldo does have its obligatory misunderstanding, but this too was amusing if not a little unbelievable given how sensible Ancilla was supposed to be.

I read this novel as part of the Reading Yorkshire 2016 Challenge and loved that it was set in a part of the county I am familiar with.

The fictional village of Oversett is " ... situated in the West Riding, rather closer to Leeds than to Harrogate, and not above twenty miles from York ...".

A shopping expedition to Leeds, a town in 1816, is the scene of one of Tiffany's tantrums.  The mention of the red brick buildings of Leeds brought back memories of childhood visits there. For me those red brick buildings will always be associated with Leeds.

The cause of another of Tiffany's tantrums, is a proposed visit to the Dripping Well or the Petrifying Well at Knaresborough, a popular tourist destination even today. Tiffany is thwarted in her plans to get there by the illness of one of the party. No matter what she proposes, her travelling companions are all in agreement that the outing should be abandoned. Poor Tiffany!

Have you read The Nonesuch? What did you think? Did you find Tiffany's tantrums amusing like I did, or tedious?

Book Review: Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Fifteen year old Florrie Buckley likes nothing more than to run barefoot on the Cornish moors, enjoying nature and the freedom of the wild and open spaces. Her life is simple and while not always easy, she is content.

When tragedy strikes, she leaves behind her beloved Cornwall to live in London with the wealthy Graces, her mother's relatives.

The Grace household is ruled by her grandfather, the domineering and irascible Hawker Grace, who is determined to re-establish the family's reputation, no matter the sacrifices he calls upon his family to make.

To Florrie her new home becomes a prison. She is forbidden to mix in society until she learns how to behave like a lady and, above all else, like a Grace. The rules and regulations threaten to dominate her free spirit and she often suffers cruel and spiteful treatment at the hands of her aunt and female cousins. Her only support comes from the male members of her family, in particular her cousin and grandfather's heir, Turlington, who is often at odds with his grandfather because of his behaviour. But Turlington is a troubled soul, harbouring secrets.

Florrie soon realises that to survive in her new life she must conform though in her heart she will always be the girl from Cornwall. Losing her Cornish accent and way of speech, her outspokenness and stubbornness, and sadly her father's name, she transforms from Florrie Buckley to Florence Grace, with all the advantages and disadvantages of being part of a wealthy family.

When the Graces' lives are thrown into turmoil by a death in the family, Florrie becomes the one they rely on. Ultimately this event sets Florrie free.

Once again Tracy Rees brings to life Victorian society with its rigid class structure and strict views on morality as it affects the Grace family. Not only do they have to contend with these outside pressures, family dynamics causes friction within the home too. There is a lot of unhappiness in this family and it is interesting how each member deals with Hawker's dictates.

The ending was not what I expected. It leaves Florrie's future and, to some extent, that of the rest of the Grace family, to be interpreted by the reader. Some may be disappointed in the ending, but in my opinion it only reinforces the strength of Florrie's character. In particular, her resolve to be true to herself and happy, even if that means making some heartbreaking decisions.

Florence Grace was the highly anticipated second novel from Tracy Rees and like many I wondered if she could follow up the success she had with her debut novel Amy SnowI believe she has, but I was hard pressed to decide which book I liked best, though the more I contemplated this question, the more Florence Grace came out on top. It is a more thought provoking read.

Tracy Rees' third novel, The Hourglass, is due out in May, 2017. While I'm disappointed that it's not set in the Victorian era as her previous two are, I'm eager to see if she can work her magic in a different time frame.

Book Review: The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane becomes obsessed with a magical word square found inside an underground church guarding the tomb of the biblical Adam.

Drawn into a web of esoteric intrigue, she and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas must race an elusive and taunting mastermind to find the one relic needed to resurrect Solomon's Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads them to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined with this modern mystery-thriller, a parallel duel is waged: The year is 1452. One of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal's Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary, Prince Henry the Navigator. He and his medieval version of NASA merged with the CIA scheme to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who plan to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies to usher in the Tribulations promised by the Book of Revelation dovetail in this fast-paced thriller to expose the world's most explosive secret: The true identity of Christopher Columbus and the explorer's connection to those now trying to spark the End of Days


From the synopsis and opening chapters I realised that The Virgin of the Wind Rose was going to be a very different book than I was used to reading. It's not often I pick up a book with a religious focus and usually the mention of the CIA or other such organisation in the description would see me pass it over. This is not a book I would have chosen for myself.

So why did I agree to read and review it? There were a number of reasons: I was excited to be offered the book to review, I'd not read any of Glen Craney's books before, I'm a fan of dual time narratives, I like a good conspiracy theory and the most compelling was the historical aspect.

In the 15th century, three young boys (Pero, Dias and Zarco) share ambitions to become sea-faring explorers and pass various tests to be admitted into a secret society. This part of the novel follows their lives and how they become part of a conspiracy to thwart Queen Isabella of Castile's plans. Prince Henry the Navigator and Queen Isabella of Castile are familiar historical figures, but in The Virgin of the Wind Rose Glen Craney puts a very different connotation on the relationship between Portugal and Spain.

Alongside this narrative is one set in the modern-day and it was this part I had difficulty getting into, at first. I didn't warm to the main character, Jaq. This wasn't a good sign, though she did improve in my estimation as the story progressed. I had trouble reconciling her religious beliefs with her role in modern society and also found her relationship with her mentor, the fanatical Reverend Merry, whom she blindly trusts, a little disturbing.

As a result of my first impressions I had a couple of false starts. I began to feel that this novel was not for me, but at some point, and I'm not quite sure where in the modern-day story this happened, there was a shift in pace and I found myself eagerly awaiting Jaq's next move, caught up in the non-stop action as each clue was discovered, solved and followed.

My favourite character was Elymas, the antiquities thief. In the early chapters he flits in and out of the story, turning up when least expected like the proverbial bad penny. The scenes he featured in were always entertaining and he was the perfect foil for the more controlled Jaq.

On the whole Glen Craney's writing style appealed to me, as did his sense of humour which surfaced in the exchanges between Jaq and Elymas, raising a chuckle or two; there is also a memorable description of a barkeeper. I should quote them here, but I believe these gems should be savoured first hand. They provided a little comic relief before the story raced off again.

Glen Craney was also successful in separating the two time frames, giving each part the distinctive feel of the period in which they were set. Each one could have been a standalone novel, yet they complemented each other in such a way that no matter what time frame I was in, I was eager to get back to the other. This surprised me as I usually favour the historical setting in dual time narratives.

The attention to detail is phenomenal, as are the many twists and turns as each conspiracy unfolds. I admit to getting lost a few times and having to back track to make sense of what had happened. For me, the greatest twist was the dramatic conclusion and definitely not the outcome I expected.

I can understand why this book would appeal to fans of authors such as Dan Brown and despite my initial misgivings, I was pleasantly surprised how much I'd enjoyed it. While I may not read any of Glen Craney's other thrillers, his historical novel The Spider and the Stone is on my list of books to read.

Thank you to Glen Craney for providing a free copy of The Virgin of the Wind Rose for me to read and review.