Sunday, July 05, 2009

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
Copyright 2009
Orig. Publ. 1968
Fiction - Romance/Gothic
373 pages

This will probably be my last Georgette Heyer for a month or two because, much as I love her, I'm reminded that I have to space out the works of a single author or I begin to hate them. Having said that, I'm still of the opinion that Georgette Heyer was unable to write a bad book and I can't imagine ever despising her writing. I just don't want to let myself anywhere near that possibility.

Cousin Kate is a departure from the typical Heyer romance. Kate is an orphan who spent many years living in billets on "the Peninsula" in Spain and Portugal, mostly raised by her soldier father. 24 years old and having just returned to her nurse Sarah's home after a disastrous attempt at life as a governess, she's considering going into service as an abigail (ladies' maid) or dresser. Sarah protests, saying she comes from blood too fine to end up lowering herself to such an extreme and writes to Kate's only known relative, her father's half-sister, Minerva Broome.

Lady Broome sweeps into town and spirits Kate away, seemingly out of duty and kindness, but there is more than meets the eye, when it comes to Aunt Minerva. At Staplewood, the Broome estate, Kate finds that her 19-year-old cousin Torquil, who is sickly and flies into dangerous tempers, is living in one wing of the estate. Minerva lives in the center and Lord Broome lives in the wing opposite Torquil's. Lord Broome is fragile and seems only to perk up when his nephew, Phillip, comes to visit.

Kate settles in and attempts to do her part to calm Torquil, without great success. Otherwise, she is profoundly bored. There are no parties at the great estate, Aunt Minerva gives her useless chores, and Torquil isn't allowed to go anywhere unaccompanied. Eventually, Kate will find out the real reason Aunt Minerva has invited her to stay at Staplewood and she will unravel the cause of the screams she hears in the night. But, will Cousin Kate find out the truth too late?

Goodness. What a story. I can't say this was my favorite Heyer, but it was certainly gripping. I'm afraid to say much, but there are a few points worth noting. Cousin Kate is primarily a gothic novel and it does have an element of romance, but the romance is less prominent in this book because the story is really a tale of a dysfunctional family with a terrible secret.

Kate is, however, the typical bubbly young lady with poor prospects and that fact makes the book a bit uneven. As events unfold, Kate loses just a little of her fizz. She's still a happy, upbeat person who wants to believe the best of everyone, but eventually there are incidents that even Kate can't come to terms with.

The older cover, at right, depicts one such scene. Cousin Torquil has obtained a gun and when he sees the friendly dog Kate has been urging to leave the property, he instantly decides to shoot it, barely missing both the dog and Kate. Not long after, Kate decides she must leave Staplewood, but worse things will happen. Will Kate make her escape in time?

3.75/5 - Very good; excellent characterization and a decent plot. As usual, Heyer is faultlessly entertaining, although Cousin Kate is kind of an awkward blend of suspense and romance. Not my favorite, however I still had trouble putting it down because I had to know what was going to happen.

I'm still stuck on my little laptop (one of those tiny e-book things) and it's a bit of a pain, so I haven't spent much time blog-hopping. Hopefully, we'll get our desktop problems resolved soon so I can visit other bloggers. I'm starting to feel a touch of withdrawal. Hope everyone's having a fantastic weekend!


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this, but I'm not sure Heyer is the author for me.

  2. Kathy,

    I really enjoy this author, but I'm sure she's not for everyone. :)

  3. I am a big Heyer fan, so I love to hear about others who have enjoyed her books. I enjoyed Cousin Kate, but it's not my favorite of her books. I often feel the same way about her books--I just have to know what is going to happen! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I love Georgette Heyer so I'm totally biased for her. There, now your comments are even. :) So far.

    Hope you're having a happy 4th of July weekend! Anything exciting going on?

  5. Can you believe I haven't yet read a Georgette Heyer book? I have a couple here and I keep meaning to get to them but...well, you know. :)

  6. Gentle Reader,

    I have to agree -- all of her books are bizarrely compelling. It doesn't matter if you know what must happen, in the end, it's the joy of getting there . . . at least, that's how I feel. I'm definitely a Heyer fangirl, now. :)


    Well, now it's three in favor of Heyer, one disinterested. That's because I trudged off to the other room and buried myself in a book for two hours, of course, and I'm just now approving messages.

    No excitement. We've had such a long dry spell that we had to hose down the lawn before the guys set off the usual explosives (the two photos I posted last night are from our home fireworks show) but everyone in the neighborhood seems to have been equally concerned about the fire hazard. The usual all-day popping has been totally absent. Instead, everyone pretty much went out during the two hours after darkness fell, blew things up and quit. Nice.


    Nooooo! I absolutely cannot believe that!! I'm shocked to the core. I have a feeling you'll love Heyer, when you get to her (which should be soon . . . really soon).

  7. Another good one I'll have to read sometime! This is one author I'll definitely check out!

  8. Krista,

    She's been around forever, so you should be able to easily find her titles in your library if they haven't been beaten to death. Thank goodness for Sourcebooks re-releasing Heyer's work!

  9. I'm fast becoming a Heyer fan too but like you, I need to space out the books. I've got this one on my list :)

  10. Iliana,

    I've got a couple more on my shelf -- both library sale finds, so they're very old. They'll have to wait a while, but I know I'm going to have fun reading when I get to them. Isn't Heyer wonderful?

  11. I hate to do this, but I'm combining my comment for this and The Corinthian together since I'm a little behind in my bloghopping. So, we've got a 3.75 and a 4.5--guessing I should go with The Corinthian over Cousin Kate? I feel like I'm all of a sudden the *only* one not reading Georgette Heyer but I don't know where to start. Isn't it funny how you will have never heard of something/someone and then all of a sudden see it/her everywhere!

  12. Trish,

    S'okay -- me, too. I had to walk away from paying the bills for a minute so I stopped to approve your comment. I'm waaaay behind on blog-hopping. I hate it when that happens.

    The Corinthian is a great starting point, in my humble opinion, since there's a bit less of the mind-boggling vernacular of some of her other books. I'm getting used to it and realizing there's a lot I can "translate," after 4 books, but you might as well start easy.

    Heyer's been around forever. You're just suddenly seeing her everywhere because Sourcebooks is republishing her novels -- a very good thing, IMHO. My library's copies were getting tattered and the selection thinning. I noticed they've got one of the new books. Yay! So nice to see a fresh Heyer on the shelves!

  13. I need to get to know Heyer because I've sure seen a lot of positive reviews about her books. I understand about spacing out books by the same author. With a couple of my favorite authors I can forgive small frailties in some of their books because it's like being with an good friend. Some days are better than others, but altogether it's a rich friendship.

  14. Booklogged,

    You should definitely give her a try. Before I read my first Heyer, I'd gotten several recommendations to read her books. I didn't think they'd be "my thing" but I was soooo wrong! I've really enjoyed her books. But, yeah. I need to give even favorite authors a break, now and then. I could never read an entire series back-to-back, as some people do.

  15. I'm going to come back to your review as I'm just working my way through this one. I just wanted to see what you had thought of it. I'm liking it so far although I think I'm only about 60 pages in.

  16. Dar,

    I hope you like it! While Cousin Kate is not my favorite, I think it's saying something that I can't even give my least favorite Heyer bad marks. Her characterization and plotting really rocked.

  17. I might be the LAST person on earth really to have NOT read Heyer! I really need to get to one of these very soon! Lovely review!

  18. Veens,

    I think you're in good company. It took me a long time to get around to reading Heyer, even though a friend highly recommended her . . . oh, I'd say 5 years ago?

  19. I really enjoy Heyer and this one is going on the wishlist!

    Thank you for such an awesome review!

  20. Amy,

    Wasn't Heyer a wonder? I'm so glad she was prolific. I'm sure her books will help keep me busy for years. :)

    Glad you enjoyed the review!


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