REVIEW: Four in Hand by Margaret Westhaven
Dear Ms Westhaven,
Here’s something a little different from the traditional trad regency. Heroine who is older than the hero (by five years), got it. Hero who wants greater commitment than the heroine, yep. Takes place totally outside of London or England, yes again. A little witty, a little sad and well written, Four in Hand was a nice change from what I’m used to.
Lady Jane Averham is a thirty-four year old widow of an English diplomat who is living in Vienna during the hectic Congress of Vienna. She feels this is the perfect time to launch her oldest daughter into society even though Phyllida would much rather spend the time playing her beloved pianoforte. When an old Scottish friend asks Jane to chaperon his headstrong daughter, Lady Flora MacGowen joins the group. Jane has asked her Swiss goddaughter, Petra, to stay the season with her. Arriving with the sole purpose of snagging a husband, Petra starts to initiate Jane’s youngest daughter and budding spy, Chloe, into the best way to hunt a spouse.
Jane thinks she’s got her hands full but finds otherwise when she meets Flora’s older brother Archibald, a diplomat himself, and the two feel an instant attraction to each other. What starts out as a simple love affair turns totally on its head when Archie realizes that he wants more from Jane than the marriage shy widow wants to give.
It’s nice to read a book that has the characters acting as you’d expect people of the time to act. And seems to have been fairly well researched. Vienna is a relief as a setting (no Almacks or Hookham’s Lending Library) and is packed with people from all over Europe. Flora is horrified as she feels that anyone who isn’t Scottish is foreign, Phyllida is oblivious as she can only think of her idol, Beethoven, who is in the city, Petra is considering as she’ll take any nationality and Chloe throws herself into the rampant spying that is taking place in every house, ball, and outing there. But the main emphasis is on Jane who doesn’t want to shackle herself into another marriage and Archie who doesn’t want to treat Jane with less respect than he feels she deserves. B+ for this one.