REVIEW: A Rather Curious Engagement by C.A. Belmond (7/08)
Dear Mrs Belmond,
When I finished reading “A Rather Curious Inheritance,” I knew there ought to be more about Penny Nichols (who is aware of the silliness of her name) and Jeremy Laidley (her sort of English cousin) after their show of interest in each other and in combining the actually rather lovely inheritance from their recently deceased great aunt Penelope. I had to wait a year and a half for it but you delivered with “A Rather Curious Engagement.” Once again you use the backdrop of plumy London, the sunny Cote D’Azur and this time add the elegance of a luxurious classic teak 1920s yacht to the story as Penny sniffs out then solves another mystery. At least Jeremy is getting good at spotting the gleam in her eye which signals he’d better get in gear to help her or risk being left in her dust.
I’m sorry to say I found it very slow to get started. You didn’t info dump about the first book to get new readers up to speed and refresh memories of those who’d read it. But the long drawn out way you told the backstory of it and introduced the us to this book tried my patience. I kept feeling we were almost ready to break out and get going then things would bog down. I don’t know about others but I don’t like having to take deep breaths and Plow On.
I also think too much time is wasted on what everyone is wearing. At times, it does make a difference such as when Penny is trying to find that perfect dress to wear to her introduction to Jeremy’s London crowd. Her visit to M. Lombard’s atelier shows us her change in social status and hints at Jeremy’s mother’s social status and how low key she is. The description of the Beethoven musical evening at Lake Como again shows this new world into which Penny is moving. But there are too many times when every character’s clothes are described and I finished the description thinking, “why did I need to know that? It shows me nothing about the plot, the characters, the story, anything.” I don’t need to know what the servant girl at the Count’s castle is wearing each time we meet her.
Ditto on too much time spent on describing the yacht. Yes, it’s wonderful. Yes, it’s classic. Yes, it comes with a crew but it’s too long.
One thing I was kind of glad to see was a slight redemption for The Other Cousin, Rollo though he can’t help but seem to show his colors at the end. Still he does help the investigation along even if Jeremy still feels the need to keep a watch on him.
I loved the descriptions of Calvi and the Corsican inland. The sights, the smells, the way the heat affects everything. Ditto the descriptions of Nice and Cote d’Azur. At least Jeremy has better luck getting repairmen and contractors out to the villa than was shown in “A Year in Provence!” I still want a Dragonetta even though they don’t exist. Someone ought to build it. The admiration it garners during Penny’s drive through Nice reminds me of Laura Florand’s introduction to her eventual in-laws as they tooled across southern France. But I must ask, who shot at Penny and Jeremy on Corsica?
I felt that the clashes with Lydia were realistic. She stays exactly as described in “Inheritance.” Penny and Jeremy’s misunderstandings about Lydia’s manipulations were so Mars/Venus. But Penny’s parents’ advice was a nice touch and shows how much work marriage really is.
I like that Jeremy and Penny use their intelligence and their skills as 1) a lawyer and 2) a researcher to crack the case. And that they behave with scrupulous correctness as to provenance and ownership of the final find. I could also see that they’re gaining confidence in what they can do and in what they want to do with their own inheritance from Great Aunt Pen.
I did delight watching Penny, and to some degree Jeremy, begin to settle into their new wealth and enjoy it. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of suddenly getting enough money to not only pay the bills but to enjoy the true luxuries of life? After all, somebody’s got to keep the designers, yacht builders and grand hotel staff members in business, right? Aquamanliers – who knew about these? I didn’t but learned a lot.
I didn’t like some of the “As you know, Bob” insertion of facts. It was especially noticeable when Penny and Jeremy were doing their research about Beethoven while in Antibes. If both are checking about him on the internet, then they’d both of read the same facts about him and thus not need to tell each other in order to tell us, the readers. And unfortunately, this wasn’t the only time I was annoyed by this way of conveying information in the book.
I liked seeing Penny and Jeremy back together again as they started to get used to the finer things in life. I thought their romance was realistic and was glad to see you included a few speedbumps for them to negotiate on the road to their HEA. The visit to the south of France, Lake Como and Corsica was divine and I’d love my own yacht as well. But some of the mechanisms of the storytelling left me flat and it took a while to get into the story at all. As such my grade slips to a B-