Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: THE GRAND SOPHY (1950) by Georgette Heyer

Isn't it wonderful when you discover you've been wrong all along about an author and then - oh heavenly day - you have a whole roster of books to cruise through. (I snobbishly had thought that Georgette Heyer's work was not for me because who knows why. I was ignorant, that's all I can say.)

Georgette Heyer's Regency books (as well as her mysteries) are for EVERYONE who enjoys a certain style of historical British wit, elegant stories, charmingly written, well researched, filled with great characters, occasional bits of brilliance and laugh out loud moments. I discovered her a couple of years ago and since then I've read and listened to (on audible) many of her books and my enthusiasm and respect for her work have never lessened.

Heyer didn't invent this sort of story-telling except maybe she did.


THE GRAND SOPHY is first and foremost, a 'domestic comedy'. The kind of story you either like or you don't. All I require of this sort of thing is that it be well and wittily written and that it makes me smile, maybe even laugh out loud. Fortunately, Heyer delivers the goods.

Sophy Stanton-Lacy is an unfashionably outspoken and bossy young woman with flash, cash and dash. She is a domestic hurricane of quick wit, intelligence and common sense. In action, she reminds me a bit of Flora Post, Stella Gibbons' heroine in COLD COMFORT FARM - though Flora is less outspoken and has no money. Sophy on the other hand, is loaded.

But like Flora, Sophy is a natural born manager. She can't help wanting to set things to rights. It's in her nature. She can't be happy until she organizes everything and everyone to her (and their) true satisfaction. She sounds insufferable, I know, but really she isn't. She's actually a hoot. She is also a pretty emancipated miss, a Regency feminist if there ever were such a thing.

Sophy makes you smile and shake your head - she is outrageous (even going so far as to carry a pistol when necessary (needless to say, she is a keen shot), but always with the best of intentions. Proven usually right in the end, she simply isn't the type to stand by and watch everything about her go to rack and ruin - not when she's sure she can figure out the right solution. In her plots and ploys, she works with the reader to fashion the ending the reader wants. Very clever.

Simply let yourself be guided by the Grand Sophy and all will be well.

When this dynamic whirlwind is sent - temporarily- to live with her uncle Lord Ombersley's family, while her father Sir Horace goes on a government mission across the sea to Brazil, Sophy immediately sees that her uncle's fretful family needs fixing.

Unconventional and outspoken, Sophy doesn't stand on ceremony. She was raised on the Continent traveling with her widowed father during the unpleasantness with Napoleon and she's seen and done things most young Regency girls can only read about - if they they are allowed to read newspapers and novels that is (which many aren't.). Sophy knows everyone who's anyone, including the Duke of Wellington himself. Sophy is, of course, a 'lady' but one who is impatient with ridiculous Regency rules and regulations. 

Lord Ombersley's eldest son Charles Rivenhall (Sophy's cousin) is, for all intents and purposes, the head of the family now, having inherited an estate from a relative who rightly skipped over Charles' father because of the elderly parent's well known profligate ways. Charles is a bit of a martinet, what with having the weight of his father's gambling debts, his mother's clinging indecision, careless teenage brother Hubert and four sisters to be properly married off each in their turn, on his shoulders. The entire family treads lightly around his infamous temper. Sophy wonders almost immediately how the family has allowed Charles to become so tyrannical and set in his ways. 

Stiff-necked Charles is recently affianced to Miss Eugenia Wraxton, daughter of a Viscount and a stickler for Regency propriety. She is also an unprincipled snoop and an all around pain in the butt. But Charles, of course, will not realize this until Sophy opens his eyes to Miss Wraxton's unlovely persona. Charles is hoping for a 'comfortable' marriage, but Sophy soon begins to make him realize that the grim Miss Wraxton would be anything but.

As for the rest of the family: Charles' sister Cecelia, a sweet but stubborn young chit, has fixed her attentions on a beautifully handsome young poet, Augustus Fawnhope, a penniless 'younger' son who refuses to get a real job. He is writing his 'magnum opus' - an epic poem he hopes someone will buy and stage. Augustus isn't a bad sort at all, he's just oblivious to reality. The equally beautiful Cecelia had been intended for the slightly older but elegant, charming and kindly, Lord Charlbury, a wealthy man who adores her. But Cecelia refuses to comply. And then of course, Charlbury would go and get an attack of the mumps at a most inauspicious time.

The likable but ineffectual Lady Ombersley cannot be relied upon to deal with any family exigencies involving domestic life as she is the type who cannot abide fuss - it sends her into spasms. She lives in dread of discomfiting her eldest son Charles who holds the purse strings.

When one of the younger daughters becomes deathly ill, it is Sophy who dismisses the alcohol sloshing 'nurse' and takes over round-the-clock nursing duties herself - Lady Ombersley's spasms having prevented her from seeing to her little daughter's needs. Charles' eyes are opened by Sophy's forthright goodness as he realizes that Miss Wraxton's fear of disease has prevented her from even entering the Ombersley's household until all contagion has been eliminated.

As trials and tribulations come and go, there are some colorful characters to meet, including a wonderfully indolent Spanish Marquesa and an ineffectual hypochondriac popinjay, Lord Bromford. who fancies himself in love with Sophy. But as family dramas pop up, Sophy steps in and takes charge, annoying and bedeviling Charles every step of the way.

Why she even goes so far as to visit an odious money-lender on the seamier side of town, carrying a pistol hidden in her fur muff! Yegads, does this young woman have no propriety? 

Fortunately for the Ombersleys, she has. And fortuitously she has landed in the middle of this fractured family, intelligently intuited what is wrong and used her special talents to set things to rights. In the end, all will be well and the grand Sophy will emerge triumphant.

This is such a delightfully entertaining book that if I were you I'd save it, like a special box of expensive chocolates - until the right moment. You can then sink into a pile of pillows (the chocolates are up to you), retreat from the strife and drama of daily reality and enter the agreeable make-believe Regency world of THE GRAND SOPHY.

This Friday, Todd Mason will be doing meme hosting duties at his blog, Sweet Freedom, so don't forget to check in to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today. 

Monday, February 20, 2017



GARGOYLES (1972) starring Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt and Bernie Casey.

Rick's Classic Film and TV Cafe is a very enticing movie and television oriented blog where those of us in the know go for pertinent and impertinent (as the case may be) vintage film and TV information of the most intriguing kind. Rick's enthusiasm is genuine and catching and there's little he doesn't know about early television and films. So when he announced a Blogathon of classic mid 1960's - 1989 TV Movies of the Week – I wanted to be a part of it. I begged, I pleaded, he said okay and here we are.

(It occurred to me after I'd chosen this movie to write about that I'd written about it a few years ago. But that was then and this is now and anyway, there are only finite movies to write about.)

GARGOYLES (1972) is my Blogathon entry and boy did I pick a humdinger to exemplify the classic 'movie of the week' style back then. It's entirely possible that I chose this because it's the only movie I remember from way back then, but that's another story for another day.

This is actor Cornell Wilde near the end of his long film career, he is playing the father here, sleep-walking though the part of Dr. Mercer Boley, a combination paleontologist/anthropologist who specializes in debunking old monster myths, fetishes and practices and writing best-selling books about it all. On the relevant summer in question, the professor is joined by his daughter Diana (Jennifer Salt), as together they haphazardly tour the desolate southwestern desert while he completes his latest research for an upcoming - as he describes it - '...nice,coffee table book.'

Salt is a baby-voiced, would-be journalist in a fetching 1970 'hippie' ensemble - flowing pants, beads and skimpy halter. No wonder she captivates a certain horned and lurking apparition of which more shall be revealed shortly.

Heading out from the airport, Dr. Boley and his daughter stop at an eccentric old geezer's road-side 'museum' to check out some promised rare specimens. Unwisely lingering until the sun goes down, they are promptly attacked by unseen creatures in the night - the 'museum' goes up in flames and so does the old geezer. But not before he'd shown Dr. Boley his prize possession, a giant skeleton of an upright humanoid animal with bat-like wings and horns. Uh-oh.

Father and daughter make a tentative escape in their station-wagon as out of the noisome night something large drops onto the roof of their car. That ‘something large’ is a reptilian, scaly-skinned creature who causes the winsome Miss Boley to emit ear-splitting screeches.

This attack is very vividly done, considering the low budget propensities of these sorts of movies and no computer gadgetry. Just great costume, make-up, camera work and stunt tenacity. Was it scary? Yes. But wait, it gets better.

Somehow the much put-upon car makes it to a local gas station in the middle of nowhere - this whole film takes place in as gloomy and desolate a desert town as hasn't been seen since the height of 1950's monster movies. Remember THEM? You get the idea.

The gas station is within walking distance of a convenient motel and oh, by the way, the nearby lonely police station.

Anyway, once Dr. Boley, the daughter, the sheriff and his deputy head out to investigate the museum crime scene, they run into some dirt bikers - one of whom is a young and lanky Scott Glenn in a very early role. The sheriff is eager to close the case so he pounces on the dirt-bikers as likely culprits. Boley and Diana haven't mentioned the 'monsters in the night' thing going on because Boley says they have no real proof - yet. (How about some giant claw marks on the roof of the car?) He is foolishly hoping to keep things quiet until he gets his book written. Yeah, right, that's gonna' work.

Well, one scary thing leads to another and before you know it, Diana has been spirited away by the king of the gargoyles played rather effectively (with some ferocious make-up) by Bernie Casey.

The king is quite taken with the nubile young human with gold hoop earrings and white halter top. (So it wasn't only my brother who lusted after Jennifer Salt back in the day.) Since as explained by the king, gargoyles have been around for thousands of years and they only show up to procreate every few hundred or so years, they have to make optimum use of the time they're allotted.

There is something about the king as played by Bernie Casey, which, after a while humanizes him to the point where you can almost see his point of view. He cannot help who and what he is, he cannot help wanting the survival of his species at all costs. And there is something confoundingly alluring (in a decidedly repellent way) in the unknown, the hideous and mysterious, the idea of winged humanoid creatures. Or maybe it's just Bernie Casey's mesmerizing voice which is so attractive.

 At any rate, the gargoyle king drops his captive back at the cave in the hills where the other gargoyles reside. And as these things usually go, a jealous female gargoyle (with more bird-like feathers than the male) instantly catches on that human-girl might be competition.

"You must teach me, Diana," says the king. Her father's books have turned up in the cave (I think some of the wingless gargoyle youngsters earlier took them from the motel room or maybe the car), books whose contents the king needs to understand in order to save his species from annihilation. Hey, I don’t know, that’s the explanation.

There are lots and lots of scenes showing Diana in her halter top.

The gargoyle egg nursery - incubation time: 400 - 500 years. 

In the meantime, while Diana is learning about gargoyle sociology, the dirt-bikers, the sheriff, the deputy and Dr. Boyle are busy fending off attacks out in the desert as they get closer to the caves.

Boyle will eventually be helped in his endeavor to save his daughter by - you guessed it - the jealous female of the species who is apparently the gargoyle king's mate.

In the end, the doctor decides the eggs must all be destroyed (there are tens of thousands) to save mankind. In the resulting melee, the king and his consort, exhausted and wounded, are allowed to fly away into the night. What happens next? You'll have to wait another 400 to 500 years to find out.

Despite the desperately low budget, lackluster dialogue, wooden acting (except from Bernie Casey who is marvelous) the film is a hoot and does have its creepy moments. You will definitely need some popcorn to wile away the dull stretches - mostly shots of cars driving on deserted highways - and also because movie monsters and popcorn just naturally go together.

I can't quite tell you why I have such lasting (and perhaps idiotic) regard for this movie, but I do. With all its faults and banality of acting, I still remember it fondly. Maybe I just watched it at the right moment in my life, or maybe I just like gargoyles or maybe the whole idea of such creatures in hiding alongside us sparked my imagination. I was never big on 'movies of the week' but this one remains fixed in memory and that's why I didn't mind sharing my enthusiasm and hopefully most of you won't remember the last time I talked about it and we'll just make believe it didn't happen.

Thank you Rick, for allowing me the opportunity to talk yet again about a movie that for whatever reason, remains tucked away in my memory of a time when I was a young mother (my daughter was two) and color television was just becoming the 'norm' - 1972, the year this movie was televised, was also the first year in which color televisions outnumbered black and white sets in the U.S.

Good times.

Be sure and link to Rick's Classic Film and TV Cafe to see what other Movies of the Week other movie loving bloggers are talking about today.

And as an added treat: link here, to watch GARGOYLES on youtube. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: SMALLBONE DECEASED (1950) by Michael Gilbert

Where have I been that I've missed reading Michael Gilber's work until now? I recently saw a review on one of your blogs about SMALLBONE DECEASED (can't remember where of course) and I was immediately intrigued with the catchy title. Then I looked around and continued to read about Gilbert's many mysteries and the bigger mystery was why I'd never heard of him.

So I am since making up for lost time - after finishing SMALLBONE I ordered three more Gilbert books (Abe Books, of course has them cheap, cheap and free delivery) - can't wait to see if they'll be as good. Hard to beat perfection though. Michael Gilbert has completely won me over with this puzzler of a mystery, fourth in the Major Hazelrigg series.

And okay, I admit it, I didn't catch on to the killer's identity until near the very end and at that point, the author was practically telling me who the culprit was. I thought it was one person and then suddenly it was someone else. Slipped by me completely. I love when that happens.

Most of the 'action' in SMALLBONE DECEASED takes place in an English law office so not a lot of room for physical to-ing and fro-ing. The language is occasionally legalese and precise but still deliciously witty. Gilbert has a knack for the calmly delivered humorous phrase, wording which on second thought makes you laugh out loud. He has the keen wit of a natural observer, someone who perhaps had seen and done it all and found it all amusing.

In truth, he probably had. After graduating from law school, Gilbert joined up and served in WWII. He was captured but escaped with another soldier and endured a 500 mile journey back to the Allied front. After the war he joined a law firm and eventually became partner - all the while writing his mysteries. So between being a lawyer and a soldier he HAD probably seen it all. 'All' comes in handy when you're a prolific writer.

Back to the book:

When Marcus Smallbone, a slightly disreputable trustee whom nobody likes, is found dead at the law offices of Horniman, Birley and Craine (Gilbert had a gift for names), Inspector Hazelrigg is soon on the case. Though in this book he hardly makes any kind of impression since most of the sleuthing is
done by Henry Bohum (pronounced Boon), a young lawyer newly hired by the firm.

Henry is a likable guy with a rare disorder which allows him only about an hour and a half of sleep each night. (Though this disorder has little to do with the case in hand.) Bohun is taken into Hazelrigg's confidence and asked to keep his eyes open and make leading conversation with the rest of the staff, Hazelrigg having decided that Bohum could not be the killer. (Of course, in some other book this would be the tip-off but here it is not. Gilbert is too sly for that.)

And while the mystery itself is complicated and intriguing (who knew that attorney's metal deed boxes were that accommodatingly large?), Gilbert's wickedly amusing writing style enlivens what might have otherwise been a too remote (it is 1950 after all) enterprise set in the supposedly dull confines of an office full of grayish lawyers and clerks.

Here is a brief bit of gossipy dialogue between the firm's secretaries:

"Do you know, I believe Miss Chittering has a boyfriend.,
"Nonsense," said Miss Cornel. "She doesn't know one end of a man from the other."

I enjoyed the interaction between various employees of Horniman, Birley and Craine and most especially loved the grumpy and unpleasant style of Bill Birley, a partner who delights in making his underlings cower.

After a verbal altercation with Inspector Hazelrigg who brooks no nonsense from possible murder suspects, Birley vents:

'Mr. Birley then rang for Miss Chittering, and as soon as she got inside the room started to dictate a lengthy lease at high speed. Miss Chittering was a competent short-hand typist, but no one other than a contortionist could have taken down dictation at the speed at which Mr. Birley was speaking. As soon as she was forced to ask for a repetition Mr. Birley snapped at her and increased his speed.

Five minutes of this treatment was sufficient to reduce Miss Chittering to tears and to restore a certain amount of Mr. Birley's amour-propre.

...Mr. Birley, having disposed of Miss Chittering, looked around for fresh conquests. After a moment's thought he rang the bell and summoned Mr. Prince to his presence.

Mr. Prince, who has already flitted vaguely on the outskirts of the story, was an elderly Common Law clerk. He has spent his professional life with the firm of Cockroft, Chasemore and Butt, whom he had served efficiently, and on the whole, happily for forty years. Unfortunately the firm had failed to survive the war and Mr. Prince had found himself thrown on the labour market. Bill Birley had snapped him up gratefully, made full use of him and paid him a good deal less than he was worth. Since Mr. Prince stood in considerable awe of Mr. Birley, and in even greater fear of losing his job, he was a very convenient whipping block. Mr. Birley reduced him to a state of quivering impotence in something less than five minutes, and then clumped downstairs to plague Mr. Waugh, the cashier.'

Okay, this all had me laughing out loud. Maybe it stops the whodunit forward motion, but I really don't care. This is the sort of thing I always hope to find in British mysteries.

Speaking of which:

The story has several red herrings and an incident with a mirror which is a major clue had we but known that it wasn't the mirror. Though each chapter heading has some legal mumbo-jumbo and a quote, it doesn't necessarily uncomplicate (or complicate, as the case may be) things. The main clue is very neatly passed right in front of our eyes though in truth, the assumption made from the incident might be a bit far-reaching. However, it does make sense I suppose, so I'm not going to make too much of a fuss about it.

When a second person in the law firm is killed, the investigation intensifies primarily because the killing seems cruelly senseless and the victim is an innocuous sort who is killed because of something deadly she knows but doesn't know she knows. Nobody likes when a foolish innocent is killed.

As SMALLBONE DECEASED has been highly recommended already, there's not much I can add except that I too highly recommend it. This is the sort of thing that nobody writes anymore and isn't that just too bad. May be the reason that vintage is still so popular.

Well, since it's Friday, don't forget to check in at Edgar Award nominee and best selling author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.

Today is Troublesome/Evil Children day at Pattinase, but I'd forgotten, hence my review is not in keeping with the theme. Old lady memory strikes again.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Overlooked Book: FEATHER BRAINED My Bumbling Quest to Become a Birder & Find a Rare Bird on My Own by Bob Tarte

This is not by any means a 'forgotten' book at all, maybe not even overlooked, but I had to figure out how to fit it in on our regular Friday round-up and here we are. Bob Tarte might be thought of as a regional writer and occasionally they do tend to get overlooked by those outside the relevant region. He is an amiable guy prone to worry and grump who nevertheless writes delightful memoir-like books. He lives in Michigan with his remarkable wife Linda in near harmony with the local flora and fauna as well as a mind-numbing collection of beloved pets including parrots, parakeets, bunnies, cats, geese, ducks, turkeys and other assorted animalia. One of my fondest wishes is someday, somehow, to meet the one and only hooligan parrot Dusty.

"Linda's parrot Dusty was enjoying his morning out-of-cage time playing inside the closet at the bottom of the stairs, indulging in a favorite activity of biting a pair of shoes. He paid to attention to me as I padded stocking-footed down the steps to warm up a cup of coffee. I should have known better than to underestimate such a calculating bird. When I reached the landing he whirled around and launched himself at my feet, forcing me to vault over the back of our L-shaped couch, coffee cup in hand. Having reasserted his status at the top of the pecking order, he turned his attention back to the closet."

Linda rehabilitates wild birds orphaned or injured, from time to time, so there is a constant variety of life (wild and otherwise) to be looked after and day to day adventures in animal husbandry to write about. This is something that, thankfully, Bob Tarte does for a living.

FEATHER BRAINED is Bob's lively journey to be taken seriously as a birder and to find a rare species he can brag about online to fellow birders. Fortunately for Bob and for us, his slightly skewed sense of humor explains all this in often laugh out loud episodes in which he never spares himself or his misadventures. Honestly, Bob and especially Linda's patience with natural foibles sometimes seems super-human.

In addition to laughing as I read along, I also got to learn quite a bit about birds, birding, birdsong, avian habitats and the peculiarities of bird aficionados in general. I also shared Bob and Linda's sense of wonder and awe when an especially beautiful bird showed up at their backyard feeder or foraged in the nearby woods or down by the pond or in a neighbor's tree. I went with Bob and Linda or Bob and his friend Bill (the non-birder birder) on their occasional treks to bird gathering spots across the state all in the name of Bob trying to find a rare species to call his own.

"Jeez, what is that?" I blurted out, startled by a face so fiery orange, it might have been painted with a fluorescent highlighter pen. Two birders told me its name. A charcoal black, triangular patch across the eyes contributed to the blackburnian warbler's black, burning appearance. At that moment I understood why I'd really come. Not so much for the numerical exercise of adding species to my list - though there was that undeniable pleasure - but for fleeting encounters with beings too splendid to exist."

You don't have to know much about birds to enjoy this book, God knows I'm no expert (and I'm not a birder, though my daughter and her family do enjoy occasionally going out into the woods looking for birds) since I have always maintained that nature is best viewed from the inside of a moving car and the only birds I can readily recognize in real life are your standard assortment of sparrows, yellow finches, cardinals, starlings, blackbirds, crows and robins. (Well, yes, I can identify Canada geese and swans and ducks and the like and thrill when watching them in flight.) Anything else, I have to reach for a bird book or check online. That doesn't prevent me, however, from still being fascinated by avian variety and beauty.

Anyone interested in memoirs, birding, birds in general, humorous encounters with nature, the fine points of marriage and stories about grumpy men finding their natural calling will delight in this book. I did, for all of the above reasons.

"I loved birds, and every bird was my favorite bird. But no bird was a better bird than a bird I saw with Linda. This had been true from when we had first met, and it was even truer now."

My hint to the University of Michigan Press towards the betterment of the next edition is this: the black and white photographs which add no real value to the look of the book should be replaced with line illustrations, perhaps by local highschool art students (?) I know color photography is expensive to print, but at the very least, black and white stylized illustrations would add a bit of visual 'oomph' to the charm of Bob Tarte's prose.

Either/or. Read the book. Then check out Bob Tarte's other writings, particularly ENSLAVED BY DUCKS.

Since this is Friday, don't forget to check in at Edgar Award nominated author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked (or not as the case may be) books other bloggers are talking about today.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: ANY TWO CAN PLAY (1981) by Elizabeth Cadell

An author I've never read before (never even heard of before), recommended by Nan at LETTERS FROM A HILL FARM. Thank you, Nan.

I'm a big fan of D.E. STEVENSON, ANGELA THIRKELL and E.F. BENSON - each has their own quirky (and often stealthily hilarious) way of telling basically the same story set in an England of long ago, an England made familiar to us by so many BBC and PBS television programs. Thanks to them, we are as familiar with fictional English village life and life up at the manor house as any Englishman or woman, maybe even more so.

I wondered if there were more of these types of stories out there. Happy to say, that Elizabeth Cadell fits the bill though her work is a bit quieter and perhaps a bit gentler than either Thirkell or Benson. She is closest to D.E. Stevenson from what I can tell. Of course if you haven't read any of those authors, then you won't know what I'm talking about - you'll just have to play catch-up. But for those of you who are familiar, then you know whereof I speak.

I did try a couple of other recommended authors from this era and wasn't all that impressed, but Cadell stood out for me. In these times of political turmoil, nothing could be further from reality than her endearing romantic story of village life and English quirkiness. A perfect getaway.

In fact, I will probably begin rereading all of my Thirkell, Stevenson and Benson books - as a way of staying sane - if you know what I mean. (I may even go back and reread all of my Jan Karons. These are desperate times.)

At any rate, back to ANY TWO CAN PLAY.

Elizabeth Cadell (1903 - 1989) was a prolific English author of 52 novels, two of which I've read recently and more of which I hope to read throughout the year. Fortunately, many of them are available on Kindle, though I prefer ordering the actual books in used form whenever possible. But it's nice to know that a bunch are available electronically just in case.

The setting for ANY TWO CAN PLAY is the small and typically gossipy English village of fiction. Downing is just the sort of enclave we love to spend time in when retreating from reality.

Natalie Travers, our accommodating twenty seven year old unmarried heroine, must step in to help her academic younger brother Julian when he is left alone and struggling with twins - his wife having left him and the babies in the lurch. Wifey was of the sort who tried domesticity for a short while but upon deciding it wasn't for her, off to London she went, back to the life preferred.

Julian, who is musical director of a private school, is not exactly parental material himself, as his preference is to be buried in his work or out playing golf. He will willingly leave it up to someone else to step in and handle the chores, take care of the kids and do the heavy lifting of day to day life. Unfortunately, daily help is hard to get in Downing, so his very obliging sister Natalie must temporarily save the day. Natalie, as Julian knows very well, is the sort to be counted on in times of domestic crisis.

Meanwhile, the local manor house owned by Downings immemorial for hundreds of years is apparently on the market. Henry Downing, the wealthy owner who'd been living in Italy, has returned bearing his young nephew who will be enrolled in the local school which Downings immemorial have traditionally attended. Henry is looking to sell his large ungainly ancestral home and as the local golf aficionados are looking to purchase the house to turn into an exclusive golf club, all seems to be moving smoothly towards a mutually approved end.

But soon, Henry becomes taken with village life and especially taken with Natalie, who is herself taken with domesticity and her brother's infant twins. She is independently single and not looking for entanglements but Henry's low-key style and inclination to show up when needed earns her spinsterish approval.

Among the rest of the characters, there's a voraciously hungry baby sitter who will eat anything that isn't hidden away, three dotty Downing aunts - one with a secret, Henry's engaging young nephew and his friend a young African student who, because of revolution in his country has nowhere to go, as well as assorted others including Natalie's stiff-necked older brother who would prefer that she take his advice in all things. and is aghast that she, once again, has offered to help Julian in a crisis of his own making.

There are no real problems or troubles that can't be ironed out between rational people and of course, a happy ending which accommodates all loose ends.

A light and lovely story, delightful and charming and endearing and all those good things that these sorts of books specialize in. But just because the story is light doesn't mean that the writing is lightweight, not at all. Cadell is expert at that sort of thing and her elegant touch and quiet humor is evident, as well as her affection for these sorts of people and their problems. I didn't want the story to end and would have still been reading if there'd been more.

Since this is Friday, don't forget to check in at author and Edgar Award nominee Patrica Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.