by Georgette Heyer
Published by Pan Books (first published 1938)
Dispossessed of crown and kingdom, crushed and routed at the grim Battle of Worcester, the young Charles II is forced to flee for his life. Out of the heat of battle, the outlaw King and his tiny party must journey across Cromwell's England to a Channel port and a ship bound for France and safety. But the King, with his love of adventure, his irrepressible humour and his unmistakeable looks, is no easy man to hide...A typically witty, exciting and wonderful tale of historical adventure, Royal Escape will please Georgette Heyer fans old and new.
A fictionalised version of events, but mostly in line with line with contemporary accounts as far as I can make out, this novel has great characterisation although the plot tends to drag in places. Still, I'm sure those involved felt the same way after tramping through the countryside for day after day, not knowing how it would all end. I spent much of the book wanting to slap Lord Wilmot, but Charles did at least acquit himself well. The cooking scenes were rather fun too.
How to Run a Stately Home
by John, Duke of Bedford and George Mikes
Published by HarperCollins Distribution Services
If anyone knows how to run a "stately home" it is the Duke of Bedford, whose Woburn Abbey gives pleasure in some 1,200,000 people a year. Those planning to open their own home to the public would be foolish not to study this book first, and all readers will be entertained by the Duke's tips and revelations which can be as disconcerting as they are fascinating. Together with George Mikes, he has made a close study of the motives and behaviour of visitors to stately homes, and holds up a mirror to them as they flock though the gates.
A tongue-in-cheek look at life as a living exhibit! The late Duke of Bedford would probably have been an excellent dinner guest and was definitely a most accommodating host, given how many people were prepared to pay for the privilege. I recognise some of the stereotypical visitors from my own trips to other properties and from snatching occasional chats with their owners. Well worth looking out for in charity bookshops.
The Young Clementina
by D.E. Stevenson
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark
Love, Loss, and Love Again...
Charlotte Dean enjoys nothing more than the solitude of her London flat and the monotonous days of her work at a travel bookshop. But when her younger sister unceremoniously bursts into her quiet life one afternoon, Charlotte's world turns topsy-turvy.
Beloved author D.E. Stevenson captures the intricacies of post-World War I England with a light, comic touch that perfectly embodies the spirit of the time. Alternatively heartbreaking and witty, The Young Clementina is a touch tale of love, loss, and redemption through friendship.
To be reviewed on The Good the Bad and the Unread.
The Necropolis Railway
by Andrew Martin
Published by Faber and Faber
A chance encounter leads young Jim Stringer, a railway porter, to move from Yorkshire to London, enticed by the prospect of becoming a railway man 'of the right sort'. But when he arrives in the Waterloo of 1903, it is to discover a world of garish pubs and tawdry brothels boxed in by towering, blank-faced factories - a world that judders perpetually to the din of the trains on the giant viaducts overhead. Jim finds that his duties are mysteriously confined to the strangest corner of the South Western's business: a railway line that runs to an enormous cemetery. Still more perplexingly, the men he works alongside have formed an instant loathing for him. And his predecessor has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Can Jim work out what is going on before he too is travelling on a one-way coffin ticket aboard the Necropolis Railway?
This one took me a while to get into, and I found the protagonist rather difficult to empathise with. About a third of the way through, however, I found myself keen to know how it would all turn out. Shall definitely track down the next in the series at some point.
Love Continuance and Increasing
by Julian Griffith
Published by Storm Moon Press
Lieutenant William Thorne, of His Majesty's Navy, is a man of humble origins. He knows that his affair with Major Anthony Rockingham of the 43rd Infantry can't last forever, not only because the war against Napoleon has sent him on blockade duty in the English Channel while the major's regiment trained ashore, but because Rockingham is a viscount, and viscounts must marry. When Rockingham's letter reaches him, saying that he'd chosen Miss Caroline Filmer as his bride, it is no more than Thorne had expected.
What he does not expect, when he returns home after the Battle of Trafalgar, is to find an invitation to the christening of Rockingham's son. He does not expect, when he meets the young viscountess, that he would fall instantly and passionately in love with her. And he certainly does not expect that Caroline would fall just as desperately in love with him. Thorne is sure that their feelings for each other can only lead to disaster, even more so as his love for Rockingham has never gone away. While the war with France continues, Thorne finds himself fighting a war within his own heart.
A lovely tale of hidden and unconventional relationships in the time of the Napoleonic War. I would have loved to see more of the relationship between the three main protagonists as it developed further, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on any of the details of their home lives in the years leading up to all three of them staying under the same roof. I particularly loved all the details of journeys between places I know well.
Richard III (Manga Shakespeare)
by William Shakespeare, Adapted by Richard Appignanesi, Illustrated by Patrick Warren
Published by Selfmadehero
Illustrated by leading UK manga artists, this series feeds into the growing popularity of manga worldwide, and presents Shakespeare's classic works in a highly visual and dynamic form. Shakespeare's epic history play Richard III reveals the power of the 'dark side'. The series keeps try to the language of Shakespeare, but the text is specially abridged for use in the manga.
I picked this one up at The Globe, but decided to delay reading it until after I'd see a recent production of the play. A rather understated Richard compared to a lot of staged versions, although he did seem to have acquired a pet raven in many of his scenes. All the other characters were well defined too, which was an achievement in quite a short adaptation of the play. I'll definitely be looking out for other interpretations of Shakespeare from this publisher.
The Beauty Within
by Marguerite Kaye
Published by Mills & Boon
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER Considered the plain, clever one in her family, Lady Cressida Armstrong knows her father has given up on her ever marrying. But who needs a husband when science is the only thing to set Cressie's pulse racing? Disillusioned artist Giovanni di Matteo is setting the ton abuzz with his expertly executed portraits. Once his art was inspired; now it's only technique. Until he meets Cressie... Challenging, intelligent and yet insecure, Cressie is the one whose face and body he dreams of capturing on canvas. In the enclosed, intimate world of his studio, Giovanni rediscovers his passion as he awakens her own.
I seem to be doing rather well at picking up M&B books with cross-dressing heroines. This book, however, didn't quite succeed as well as some in terms of the heroine achieving her initial goals. I would have loved to see her pursue science further, rather than being side-tracked by art. The portrayal of the background characters in a same-sex relationship felt rather too negative (almost judgemental on the part of the author) as well.