Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lady Fortescue Steps Out

Lady Fortescue Steps Out by Marion Chesney is like sitting and eating bon-bons. Wrapped in a cozy comforter. In a chair pulled up just the right distance from a crackling fire. This novel set in Regency England was just what was called for at the moment. Light and breezy. Funny and outlandish. Adventure and romance. It is the absolutely charming first novel in Chesney's The Poor Relation series.

The Poor Relation is the name which Lady Fortescue and her happy band of fellow poor relations give to their new hotel. Having tired of depending on reluctant relatives for handouts, small allowances, and infrequent invitations, Lady Fortescue meets up with Colonel Sandhurst and they decide to pool their resources. Soon they are on the look-out for other suitable impoverished gentry and the idea of the hotel is born. They will make the elite pay through the nose for the pleasure of being waited on by nobility. And the elite do pay.

Although the establishment is an immediate hit with the cream of London's citizenry, Lady Fortescue's nephew, the Duke of Rowcester, sets himself on a mission to end the endeavor--through buying out the six partners if necessary. He feels that his aunt's descent into trade will smear the family name--until he meets Miss Harriet James, a young woman who bewitched him in a previous Season before disappearing into obscurity on the death of her parents and loss of her fortune. Miss James has accepted Lady Fortescue's offer to be the hotel's chef. Once Rowcester sees Miss James he moves into the hotel--supposedly to keep an eye on his aunt. That's when the fun begins.

Marion Chesney tells a rollicking good story with plenty of period detail. There's romance without it turning into a bodice ripper. There's adventure without highwaymen. And there's good clean fun and lots of humor. I look forward to reading more of this series in the future. Three and a half stars for a good, solid read. (And, for whatever reason, I just love that cover.)

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