REVIEW: Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds by Joan Smith
Dear Ms Smith,
Have you ever had a crazy relative who left a bizarre will? Sophronia Tewksbury was a manipulative old bat and left her relatives with a mind boggling one. The entailed estate went to one nephew, various lesser jewels were given to others but her diamonds were to be buried with her. Outrage is the best description of their reaction to that news. Scheming sister Marcia, estate poor cousin Jonathon, marriage minded nephew Gabriel and ward Luane are all determined to get their hands on the necklace. But Marcia’s neglected daughter Claudia just wants a few small adventures before heading back to her dreary life in Devonshire as the governess to her Uncle’s bratty boys. Coexecutors of the will Sir Hillary Thoreau and Sophie’s solicitor Mr. Fletcher will have their hands full trying to guard the grave, sort out the family squabbles and maybe, for Sir Hillary, find a little romance before all is sorted out.
You do wicked, witty trad regencies better than about anyone else. And with Claudia and Hillary you have your usual cutting comedy. Very little gets past either one and both have delicious senses of humor. Sir Hillary comes upon Cousin Jonathon trying to propose to Claudia and decides to give lessons.
“Shall I show you how?” Sir Hillary asked. “Standing will do for a rehearsal, though in a real offer kneeling is all the crack. You take the lady’s right hand—so. You had her left hand, Jonathon, the one with the emerald–didn’t you notice? Next you assume a suitably ardent expression–a mixture of hope, love and eagerness with something of eternal devotion thrown in if you can manage it, but still firm and manly. Humility has no part in this particular expression. That will come later after she has accepted. I think the facial expression really half the battle. When my time comes I shall think of a particular trout that has eluded me these several seasons and imagine I am about to land him.”
The secondary characters, especially Sophie’s long suffering companion Miss Bliss and Marcia’s upstart romantic suitor, are great and you get the regency feel but set in the countryside, so no tiresome trips to Almacks or harping on only two dances per gentleman per night. This one was delightful. A for you, despite the will part.