Elderly widow Lady Fortescue must escape genteel poverty. If each of five geriatrics relieve a rich relative of a costly trifle, they can turn her house into a hotel for the ton. Her nephew, Duke of Rowcester, is horrified, until he meets hotel chef Miss Harriet James, green-eyed beauty who remembers their waltz - before she lost parents and inherited debts.
I have wanted to read a book by MC Beaton (aka Marion Chesney, etc) for some time and finally, due to an Audible Deal of the Day, snatched up my first one. Rather than one of her mysteries, I picked up one of her light Regency Romantic Comedies and it was a gem of a story that left me not only eager for the rest of the series, but for more of her books.
Lady Fortescue Steps Out is the first book in the Poor Relations series. The series title says it all as this is the story of a group of people, starting with Lady Fortescue, who come together out of necessity. They are the poor relations of various high society families and they are sadly left to shift for themselves while their family and friends carry on. They struggle to maintain their gentility and rank with no income to support it.
At first, the story focused on the the overall series set up with the introduction of each ‘Poor Relation’ to the story, but then it became a dual focus of a reunion romance and how the Poor Relations open a hotel to help ends meet.
It is gently paced and the characters and setting well described so that I saw it all so well in my mind and enjoyed the company of this group. Sir Phillip persuades the others into the hotel venture and helps finances it by cunning and a relaxing of morals on his part though they all go right along with it. It was a unique set up in a Regency story and I was captivated by the hijinks going on. I enjoyed the humor throughout and the mild adventures of the Poor Relations group. The story was left open-ended for further adventures that will likely focus on each member of the group.
There is a romance that is surrounded by the greater story involving one of the Poor Relations and Lady Fortescue’s ducal relation. Its a reunion romance of sorts since the pair met and danced once with neither forgetting the occasion. It becomes a class difference romance because Harriet is now in trade and her suitor is a duke, no less. Others connive to part them or put them together in a series of circumstances. I enjoyed the pair and thought their romance was handled well.
The audio narration was handled by the incomparable Davina Porter. She did well with the large cast of characters and voices. I’ve enjoyed her narration in other historical settings and she has a voice suited to these stories so well.
All in all, it was a splendid outing for my first book with the author. Happily my local library is well stocked. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy light and fun historical romance set in a wider story of a circle of friends.
Romance Roundabout #150 HR
Oldie But a Goodie #7
Mt. TBR #93