Burdess, Wendy - 'The Unaccomplished Lady Eleanor'
I enjoyed THE METICULOUS MESSENGER, the second novel of Wendy Burdess's very much and because of this I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to review this, her first novel. Which I found also wonderfully entertaining.
The story starts with Lord Myers returning to the family home with a new fiancee to introduce to his only daughter, Lady Eleanor. Lady Eleanor, has spent the six years since the death of her mother following a tomboy existence, indulging in manly pursuits such as fishing and shooting and generally helping her father run his country estate. The new fiancee doesn't approve and she twists Lord Myers' arm into agreeing to send Lady Eleanor away to stay with a dowager godmother Lady Ormiston, who lives in Whitlock Castle not far from London.
Lady Ormiston has agreed to arrange to teach Lady Eleanor more refinement and lady like things such as dancing, embroidery, pianoforte and has arranged for a kitchen maid, Milly, to act as her personal lady's maid to help her with her clothes. Lady Eleanor has great difficulty in learning to dance with her French teacher but she gets extra lessons from Milly.
In the household also is James, another godchild, who has just inherited the title of Lord Prestonville but who is frequently called away to his lawyers as there is someone disputing his right to the title. This makes him a little surly and arrogant. The author's description of him reminds me of Mr Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice. There are also two further house-guests who present rather tiresome behaviour as far as Eleanor is concerned.
Eleanor's annoyance soon turns to suspicion however when during a hectic round of social engagements a potentially fatal series of incidents occur to both her and James. Can a bitter legal dispute over James's inheritance, a failed blackmail attempt and a wronged husband all be the accidents they seem?
There are a few red herrings to draw the reader to the wrong conclusion before the surprising conclusion. There is a wry humour to the presentation of this story and it is a real page turner but also peopled with zany characters that are wonderfully well presented. The historical setting of mid 1815 is very well captured. I hope we can expect many more books from this author as I believe she has a real gift in her writing with uncanny descriptive detail and highly imaginative plots.
Terry Halligan, England