REVIEW: Cousinly Connexion by Sheila Simonson
Dear Mrs. Simonson,
You’ve only written a few Regencies yet all have been ones I’ve enjoyed. As I’ve not heard of anything new from you in years, I guess I need to look into trying some of your mysteries. For readers unfamiliar with your books, I’m glad that this one has been reissued in ebook form and hope it will inspire a new readers to try you out.
When Lady Meriden’s eldest stepson and husband die within days of each other, the estate passes to the second stepson. No one has seen him in years, yet he inherits everything, including his father’s gambling debts and guardianship of his seven siblings. Jane Ash rushes to her aunt’s aid. Months go by before the new baron comes, and Jane is left to cope with her ailing, self-dramatizing aunt and bewildered cousins, all of whom have problems. Lady Meriden alternately spoils and neglects them. Julian, the heir, has his own problems and wants nothing less than to play the heavy parent to his unknown siblings. When he does come, will he and Jane form an unexpected alliance that leads to romance?
This is a perfectly unexceptionable Regency and I loved the take off beginning on Austen’s “Persuasion.” All etiquette and rules obeyed and it has delightful characters who act responsibly, do not fling themselves into love and poo-poo attempts made to be flung by others. There are lots of characters yet I felt I got to know most of them (except for the twins and even their own relations viewed them as twin terrors). I was delighted that some cliched standard Regency characters are turned on their heads such as the younger brother Vincent who turns out not to really want to be ton Tulip and who’s perfectly happy learning estate management. And at least Jane’s father isn’t a typical absent Regency father — no he’s not in book much but he asks about Jane, writes to her often, wants her to come home and eventually fetches her and puts his foot down about her being a reclusive old maid waiting attendance on his Drama Diva sister.
I loved how Ju masterfully manages the almost overwhelming cares he’s so unexpectedly inherited. He slowly and carefully helped his siblings without taking over, making them feel too bad or resentful. And how like men not to talk and tell each other what they really feel (Vincent that he doesn’t mind not being on the town and Ju that he is grateful for his brother’s seemingly trivial help in dealing with all the estates). Sobering moments are provided
when Will Tarrant and Julian reflect on the horror of Waterloo, how badly Ju was injured and how many friends (4 out of 5, on average) they lost there. The casualty lists printed after the battle must have made even strong men weep. General Peggy Tarrant is a wonder and I’m glad Will knows how lucky he is to have her as his wife.
I truly am sorry you haven’t written more Regencies. This one is a small gem and perhaps will lead to your others being reissued in ebook form. B for “Cousinly Connexion.”