REVIEW: A Rather Charming Invitation by C. A. Belmond
Dear Ms. Belmond,
“A Rather Charming Invitation” is a lovely reunion with American Penny Nichols and her English fiance Jeremy Laidley along with their assortment of English and French relatives. It’s also another book in the series which takes me back to the style of mysteries from an age before every book had to have murder and violence in it. There’s old fashioned sleuthing throughout which ultimately uncovers the clues which will solve the latest case along with some wonderful European locations and a bit of old fashioned glamour.
Dateline: London, Paris, Antibes. It’s time to get down to wedding planning. But while heiress Penny’s distant relatives insist that the nuptials be held in their native France, Jeremy’s kin won’t have it anywhere but England. And either choice might just re-ignite the Hundred Years’ War…
Then, in a family chÃ¢teau high above the perfume fields of Grasse, Penny’s French cousin offers her the loan of an ancient bridal tapestry. But Penny has barely begun to crack its perplexing imagery before a series of strange events unfolds, threatening to derail the wedding. From a secret chalet on Lake Geneva, to a nostalgic stop at the opulent Train Bleu, to a winner-take-all gamble in Monte Carlo, Penny and Jeremy are off on another romp…while the clock is ticking down until they say, “I do.”
Readers used to a faster pace for their mystery/suspense novels might find this series too slow for their tastes but to me this one works just fine. After all, it’s not solely about the crime to be solved but also about Penny and Jeremy’s relationship together as well as their management of their new lifestyle. I think newcomers would be wise to read the first in the series, “A Rather Lovely Inheritance” in order to learn who all the characters are and their relations to each other. It’s not impossible to pick it all up from “Invitation” but it would be much harder going.
I like how you sprinkle small clues and details over the course of the story and only later have the characters realize the importance or significance of them – just as it would be in real life. No wildly waving authorial arms to point out Important Things Not To Be Missed or trail of breadcrumbs leading us to the inevitable Major Clues. Sure it makes the story a bit longer but I’m having such a fun time I don’t mind the wait.
Along with her family and Jeremy, I was getting a bit impatient with Penny’s heel dragging about planning her wedding but once the inspiration hit her, it was perfect. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime wedding to remember. And it may sound strange but the slight row that blew up between Jeremy and Penny about it actually made them more believable to me since up until then, their simpatico was almost too much.
Wealth and the moneyed circles they now move in are still somewhat new to both Penny and Jeremy so they still haven’t gotten jaded about it all. So watching them enjoy their villa on the Cote d’Azure, their townhouse in posh London and their lovely vintage yacht is a blast. I can just see them in the sunny Riviera tooling around the winding roads in a lovely antique automobile. The descriptions of Penny’s relatives’ chateau and the fields of flowers they grow for their perfume business make me swoon with envy to see and smell them. And it sounds like you’ve got the descriptions of the chic Frenchwomen – dressed all in beige and black – correct. Now, in addition to a Dragonetta, I also want a perfume made just for me!
I’m happy to say that this book captures me as much as did the first novel and am glad to know that you’re already hard at work on the next adventure for Nichols and Laidley, Ltd. After all, they have to do something other than lay about on their yacht and drink in the sunshine all day. B
This is a trade paperback published by NAL but pre-Agency pricing.