Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
Arson and Mayhem in the Country
Reviewed by Mark Lardas
January 29, 2023
“Georgina,” by Alida Leacroft, Magic Isle Press, 2022, 307 pages, $9.99 (paperback), $3.99 (ebook)
Georgina Ross is back in England for the first time since she was a toddler. She has no memory of it. She grew up in a station in the Cape Colony where her father was a missionary. After her father was killed by renegade natives (who also killed most of his Christian converts), her mother decided to return to England with Georgina. Then her mother died and was buried at sea.
“Georgina,” by Alida Leacroft, opens with the twenty-year old Georgina Ross, orphaned and friendless, on the docks of Southampton. It is the first half of the 1800s. Georgina has the address of her father’s half-sister, who lives in Southampton, another for her grandfather, Frederic Weatherly in Westmead House Hampshire. He is estranged from his daughter.
When Georgina arrives at her aunt’s door she receives a cold reception. Only her aunt’s sea captain husband prevents the aunt from tossing her into the street. Thereafter the aunt and her two daughters treat Georgina like an unpaid servant.
Her letter to her grandfather initially goes unanswered. He was badly injured in a burglary attempt at his house and taken to a neighbor’s place to recover. When the letter finally reaches the sheltering neighbors, the Kellings, they invite Georgina to visit.
The attack on her grandfather proves more than a simple burglary. Her grandfather, Georgina, and Captain Edward Kelling find themselves enmeshed in what motivated behind the attack and arson at Westmead House. Captain Kelling, retired from the Army after a debilitating wound suffered during the Spanish campaign, determines to uncover the mystery of who attacked Frederic Weatherly, and set the fire at Westmead House.
It has all expected Regency romance tropes: the family secret, an obscure inheritance, and a wicked, but concealed villain. It is set in the country among England’s upper middle-class, complete with a younger son adrift and seeking a career.
“Georgina” has numerous side plots adding depth and humor, to the story. There is Georgina’s plucky Irish maid. Edward Kelling is an obsessive fisherman. His father is the novel’s bluff, hearty squire. Geogina’s aunt’s family are the wicked step-mother and step-sisters to Georgina’s Cinderella.
“Georgina” was written pseudononymously by Dave Freer, after being told men cannot write good romances. The result is on par with Georgette Heyer’s best Regency efforts. As with all Freer novels, it is thoroughly entertaining. I will let distaff reader decide how good a romance it is.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.