Dear Ms. Belmond,
Before I started this book, I hoped that my reading experience wouldn’t continue the pattern of the previous three books – loved “Inheritance,” thought “Engagement” was just okay, enjoyed “Invitation.” In other words, up then down then up then maybe down again. Well, I liked “Homecoming” but definitely not as much as books one or three.
Newlyweds Penny Nichols Laidley and her husband Jeremy have just returned to their home base in London from an extended honeymoon when their next sleuthing case lands in their laps. Despite their vow to each other to carefully consider taking on any cases involving either family or Very Important People, this investigation promises to do both. Penny’s grandmother willed her lovely Cornish estate to the small town of Port St. Francis with the idea of the town using it for the good of the community. They’ve done this for years but now the place, indeed the entire town, is at risk from developers who want to spiff it up and thus probably run up property taxes to the point that the natives and working class people of the area will be priced out of the market.
A certain Royal Personage along with the desperate locals are hoping Penny and Jeremy can find proof that Will Shakespeare did indeed Sleep There and thereby qualify the estate for protection from the massive Improvement Plans the sleazy and slightly scary developers have for it. With the hopes of the town riding on them, can Penny and Jeremy save the day?
This is a good series for people interested in mystery plus sleuthing plus history plus some romance but without the eeevil villains often found in romantic suspense books. It continues to feature more “off the usual beaten path” locations – in this case Cornwall rather than being totally located in London. I also like that the mystery involves something that’s not too far fetched and which is part of the location. Penny’s knowledge of history and antiquities plus Jeremy’s legal skills together with something that’s already in the area are what save the day rather than some “rabbit out of a hat” unbelievable solution to the problem.
I had some problems in “Engagement” with the way facts needed for the case were worked into the story and that is also the case here. At times it seemed like I was reading a travelogue of Cornwall. I am all for tidbits of local color in a story but lots of the stuff here just comes across as “gee whiz, look at this fun trivia!” At times Jeremy and Penny split up to research and investigate and their breathless reports to each other come off more as school research papers. Some of their dialogue also sounds too earnest as if they’re actors in a drama class. Also Penny’s mother is English and she’s vacationed in Cornwall before moving there so some of the things she appears to be ignorant of don’t make sense. More than once I thought, “I’ve never been to England but even *I* know [insert fact] so why doesn’t Penny?”
Jeremy and Penny are still in the besotted newlywed phase which is fine with me. I enjoyed their teasing as well as Jeremy’s determination to protect Penny during an event that occurs with their Cousin Rollo – who does always seem to be around when the best brandy is being opened and poured. Yet, it was almost a relief when they actually had a bit of a tiff since up til then these two were almost more sympatico then identical twins.
Even though this book didn’t quite match my hopes for it, I’m glad that the series is still ongoing and – I hope – will continue to do so. Intelligence and brains solve the conundrums rather than shoot outs and though Jeremy and Penny might be in danger at times, they’re never really in serious peril of their lives. There are times when I’m in the mood for sensual and times when I’m not and the “A Rather…” books provide a sweet, no sex mystery series. With Sir Francis now on board to help, I’m sure Nichols & Laidley will be up to something interesting soon. C