A Place for Us Part Three, Harriet Evans
Andrée’s War , Francelle Bradford White
Perishable Goods, Dornford Yates
The Littlest Guide, C R Mansell
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie
Blood Royal, Dornford Yates
Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night , James Runcie
Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil , James Runcie
Fire Below, Dornford Yates
Rebellion , Peter Ackroyd
Plotting for Grown-ups , Sue Hepworth & Jane Linfoot
The Red Book of Primrose House , Marty Wingate
She Fell among Thieves, Dornford Yates
A Place for Us Part Four, Harriet Evans
Listellany , John Rentoul
In These Times, Jenny Uglow
The cover of my current Yates read, An Eye for a Tooth. I love ‘Chandos Lane’ and all the book titles turned into shop signs.
My bedtime reading of Dornford Yates has speeded up and I managed four Chandos novels last month. Richard William Chandos is not my type at all. He’s tall, ‘no lightweight’ and presumably very good looking, as women are always falling for him. He’s very susceptible himself and is as bad as Boy in his obsession with women’s tiny feet. Nothing pleases him more than to clean a lady’s shoes and then put them back on: ‘when I had shod her…’ like a horse! Whatever turns you on, but these were best selling books so I find it odd. With their share of the spoils from Blind Corner Chandos and Hanbury buy an estate in Wiltshire, where they hunt a good deal and spend more time outdoors than in.
Perishable Goods is extremely creepy. Adèle, Boy’s wife, is kidnapped and the ransom note says, ‘the goods are perishable’. Jonathan Mansel and the other two set out to rescue her from the evil ‘Rose’ Noble and then we get a shock. When they find Adèle, locked up in a castle, it turns out that Jonah is in love with her and she with him! That’s why Noble kidnapped her, to revenge himself on Jonah for nabbing the treasure. Poor old Boy is completely out of the picture, laid up with a broken leg. After Mansel has been shot and believes himself to be dying, he and Adèle go on for pages about how much they love each other and how special this is. ‘Yesterday you made me a king’. So did they or didn’t they? Even more strangely, when it’s clear that Jonah will after all recover, they plan to return to normal life, regarding this episode as merely a precious idyll. You have to feel sorry for Boy, because no one is a match for Jonah, as Chandos is always telling us.
Blood Royal is a Ruritanian adventure in which Chandos finds himself a wife. The heroes are back in Austria and stumble upon an unpleasant character, Prince Paul, heir to a bordering principality. He’s a complete slimeball yet they feel obliged to help him gain his throne, in the interests of legitimacy. Paul is supposed to marry Leonie, a beautiful, spirited girl who loathes him yet wants him on the throne rather than the pretender. The rescuers get no thanks from Paul. Au contraire, he becomes a life-long enemy because Leonie leaves him for Chandos. This is very obvious in the next book, Fire Below. Idiotically, they all go back to Austria, ostensibly to see to Leonie’s estates. The plot is very complicated but basically, Leonie is in danger from Paul. In the course of rescuing her, Chandos meets a beautiful peasant girl (slim and child-like, naturally) who falls in love with and even sacrifices her own life for him. Some people have all the luck.
The book I enjoyed most is She Fell Among Thieves, mainly because in Vanity Fair Yates created a truly interesting, totally evil villainess. The plot is quite beyond belief. At the start of the book, Chandos doesn’t care if he lives or dies because Leonie has been killed in a plane crash. This is Yates’s favourite method of disposing of characters who’ve served their purpose. Mansel asks him to help with some clandestine police work, trying to find out just what Vanity Fair is up to. While spying out the land around Jezreel, Vanity Fair’s estate, Chandos sees and falls for a beautiful young girl. She’s about nineteen but believes herself to be ten and behaves as if she’s five. Chandos naturally describes her as ‘abnormal’ but Jonah immediately diagnoses her as normal, but having been given a drug (by Vanity Fair, of course), when she was nine, which made her forget her past life. Really! They plan to smuggle her away from Vanity Fair’s clutches and send her to Jonah’s sister Jill, another child-woman, who will help her come to terms with who she really is. It beggars belief that such a damaged girl could ever recover and become suddenly grown up; also that Chandos, having been married to the remarkable Leonie, could then love such a simpleton. Jonah loves her too, but she likes ‘William’ best. Plenty of danger, driving, thrills and spills; it is quite exciting. I’d like to read these stories written from the point of view of Carson, Bell and Rowley, the loyal servants who constantly risk their lives in their masters’ service.
Years ago I had a copy of The Littlest Guide but sold it in one of my clearouts. I fancied reading it again and put an ebay search on it but people were asking ridiculous prices. When one came up for 99p I was pleased to snap it up; less pleased to find that it was misbound, with the loss of about twenty pages. I still enjoyed this tale of a cheerful little girl from the slums who is determined to be a Guide and enrols herself in the local company. It’s slightly snobbish but is obviously not meant to be; rather it emphasises the sisterhood of Guiding, which is all-inclusive. I love the cover!
I polished off A Place for Us, reading parts three and four. In part three the family starts to fall apart. It’s very short indeed, rather a rip-off. In part four, all the secrets are out at last, so will it be happy ever after for the surviving Winters of Winterfold? Possibly. I was interested enough in this book to want to find out what happened.