Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer

It’s no secret by now that I am a fan of Georgette Heyer, considering that I read, reviewed and enjoyed three books of hers in the past 20-something days. The previous ones were all mysteries set in the times contemporary to Heyer. I had a slight anxiety therefore when I started reading Cousin Kate which even though still a mystery, it’s also a historical fiction, romance and Gothic mystery. It turned out I needn’t have worried.

Kate Malvern is considered at 25 on the brink of old age by the Regency standards. Her prospects for the future are looking worse and worse by the minute. With no parents, no dowry to speak of and no real prospects for substantial income, Kate has only one person to turn to: her nurse Sarah Nidd. But Sarah has her own family and household to care for and as much as she loves Kate, it’s only a matter of time when Kate will become a nuisance and yet another mouth to feed. With the appearance of Kate’s aunt Minerva, the estranged half-sister of Kate’s father, it looks like the deliverance from all worries has finally arrived. Kate is overwhelmed by the kindness bestowed upon her by Minerva and wishes with all her heart to repay it any way she can. When taken to Staplewood, Minerva’s family estate, Kate discovers soon enough that what she’s expected to do in return for Minerva’s benevolent treatment may be more horrifying than she could ever imagine. The household has the gloomy atmosphere with uncle Timothy living in a separate wing, the moody and often unpredictable cousin Torquil living in another part and Minerva ruling the house with an iron fist. Soon, Kate finds herself entrapped in Staplewood with only one person, cousin Phillip willing to help.

Cousin Kate is a completely different novel from the ones I’ve read but also the same talent Heyer’s for writing with style, humor and cleverness shines through. Kate is a very likable character, she’s independent, she knows what she wants, how to say what she wants and most importantly, how to stand up for herself and say no. I suspect she got it from her nurse Sarah, which I think I liked the most, even though she only appears at the beginning and end of the book. Talk about a no-nonsense woman. I like to imagine that Georgette Heyer used some of her own characteristics when creating Sarah. Also, I was happy to see that despite writing in a different genre, Heyer didn’t lose any of her wittiness, humor and a knack for truly bringing to life all her characters. There was one other new element introduced: mental illness. That just added more fun for me because I enjoy reading books with at least one person who suffers from some kind of mental impediment. Heyer never names what the illness is, but it really doesn’t matter because a name is not necessary when the portrayal is so excellent. Cousin Kate was simply another great performance by this wonderful writer and it only makes me elated to know that there are plenty more of her books to read.

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Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of this book.

Book Info
Title: Cousin Kate
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published in: 2009
By: Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.