Burdess, Wendy - 'A Criminal Affair'
What an astonishingly good third book this is from this new author.
When sensible and pretty Lady Charlotte Hamilton receives a marriage proposal from the odious and sickly Lord Farrell, instead of hooting with contempt, she accepts, as she is only too aware that the riches that come with the position of wife to this horrible man, should prevent her widowed father, Lord Hamilton, from becoming destitute; the family finances having taken a turn for the worst as a result of his reckless investments in the Americas.
Charlotte has to visit her new fiance and his wretched mother and sister at their home, Wetherington Hall, and is astonished to see the three of them lying resplendent on chaise longues near the fireplace which has a roaring fire on this mild Spring day. She discovers that all three are terrible hypochondriacs with lists of fictitious ailments a mile long.
Charlotte and her family have to appear at a number of balls, to introduce her to the Farrells' circle of friends. All are fearful of having their coaches stopped and being robbed by a highwayman known as the "Courteous Criminal", who is known for the good mannered way he robs his victims!
Charlotte's young brother, Edward is injured climbing a tree and is obliged to remain in bed for several weeks. He is attended by a Doctor Daniel Leigh, who is very able clinician and so much so, that the horrid Farrell family hear of his qualities and engage him to visit them on a daily basis. He despises them for their general good health and pretense of sickliness but is in need of their generous fee.
Charlotte is regretting her acceptance of the marriage to Lord Farrell and as every day passes the wedding day gets closer and closer. Charlotte goes daily for a ride on her horse across country and often sees another rider dressed in green with her face concealed and wonders who she is. She also has an encounter with the "Courteous Criminal" who takes her necklace after stealing a kiss from her and she wonders about his identity. She also wonders why Doctor Leigh keeps trying to persuade her not to marry Lord Farrell.
The author reveals all in the final pages, but as she is very fond of planting red herrings she fooled me completely.
This is only the third title from this new author and I'm most pleased that I had the good fortune to read it. The quality of her writing gets better and better with each successive book. It had a refreshing charm, humour and easy readability which made it most enjoyable and the pages just flew by very quickly. It's unfortunate that her books are not also distributed in paperback to increase her readership to the wider audience, that she deserves.
Terry Halligan, England