Thursday, November 2, 2017

The 1968 Club: Cousin Kate is Regency Gothic


Since The House on the Strand just missed the cutoff for the 1968 Club, I dug around and realized there was a Georgette Heyer novel published that year that I'd never read! It had been awhile since I read any Heyer, and this one turned out to have Gothic overtones as well, so it was seasonally appropriate. 

Cover of the first edition, it is so wonderfully Gothic. 

The story: our heroine Kate Malvern is 24, orphaned and impoverished, and can't seem to hold down a job as a governess, but is still spunky and doesn't seem concerned that she's never been presented and is probably considered off the shelf by Regency-era standards. Kate has been sacked after receiving an unwanted proposal from the brother of her employer, and turns to her old nanny Sarah, who is now married and running an Inn. Kate spent her childhood following her father through his military postings in Spain and Portugal, and has few qualifications or prospects, though she thinks she might find employment as a upscale lady's maid. Sarah is scandalized by the thought of her former charge stooping so low, and contacts Kate's long-estranged aunt, Lady Minerva Broome. Auntie had been estranged from her older half-brother, Kate's father, years ago after became the second wife of the wealthy (and much older) Lord Timothy.

So. Lady Minerva sweeps up out of nowhere and whisks Kate back to her estate, Staplewood, which she has spent years transforming into a showplace. It is also the home of her young son Torquil, who is sickly and spoiled though beautifully handsome -- and a little strange. Kate wins over everyone, including the charming and rather detached Lord Timothy, and his nephew Philip, who dislikes Lady Minerva. Kate can't understand the old estrangement between her late father and his half-sister until she realizes that maybe Auntie has ulterior motives of bringing Kate to Staplewood. Torquil is alternately charming and paranoid and Kate finds herself attracted to Philip. 


This is definitely less of a light-hearted Regency romp I was expecting. Aunt Minerva is a little sinister and I found Torquil downright creepy. There were definitely elements in this book I was not expecting, and I enjoyed it although I did think the characters didn't have nearly as much development as in some of her other book -- it was almost as if Heyer was concentrating so much on the Gothic side that she didn't have time to work on the charming characters that I've grown to expect. It was close to the end of her writing career (#54 out of 58 novels, by my count) so it's possible that the quality of her work was declining. I've only read ten of her novels and I mostly chose them at random, so I don't know if I can judge accurately. But, overall, a fun and diverting read set in the Regency period, which is the whole point of reading Georgette Heyer. 

Thanks again to Kaggsy and Simon for organizing the 1968 Club! Is anyone else signed up? What did you read? And which other Georgette Heyer books do you recommend?

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for taking part! I seem to be constantly writing on blog posts 'I must Heyer one day', but I really do mean it!

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    1. Maybe you should read Georgette Heyer for Tea or Books sometime?

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  2. I think I remember reading that she wrote this during a very stressful time in her life. I think it is the darkest of her regency novels, and certainly not the place to start if you have not previously read any Heyer.

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    1. Yes, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone's first Heyer. The Grand Sophy was the first Heyer Regency novel I ever read, and it was great fun. I was hooked.

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  3. I couldn't even remember if I had read this one or not. Apparently I have and thought it was okay but actually not gothic enough. I have to say, though, that I always go into Heyer books with low expectations so that I won't ever be disappointed. They aren't the best books ever written but they sure are fun!

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    1. Exactly! Not great literature, but good escapist fun if that is what you are looking for.

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  4. I think Cousin Kate must be my least liked of all Heyer's book. One read thru was enough ;)

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    1. Yes, I don't think I need to read it again. Possibly my least favorite Heyer so far.

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    2. Do you have a post here discussing your favourite Heyer books? (asked with a hope filled grin)

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  5. I'm reading A Small Town in Germany by John Le Carre for this, I should be finished soon, but I blogged about previous 1968 reads meanwhile. I had intended reading Cousin Kate too, but this week came around so quickly, I didn't have time!

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    1. That was on my list as well, because I actually do live in a small town in Germany!

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