Marian Halcombe by Brenda W. Clough

A Victorian drama set in the mid 19th century. The title character has accepted her spinsterhood, believing she is too plain to attract a husband until widower Theophilus Camlet enters her life. Even then, Marian has difficulty believing love has come her way, especially when the suitor appears to be a perfect match. Eventually, a marriage proposal leads to marriage. When the happy couple returns from their honeymoon, it is to find the first Mrs Camlet installed in the house. I hardly need to say that complications develop from there, and I don’t want to give too much away except to say that Camlet ends up in prison twice.

Marian is her beloved’s staunch advocate, never losing faith in him and never letting anything stand in her way as she pursues the truth. In her endeavours, she is assisted by her sister and brother-in-law who, while doing his best to help, tries to rein in Marion’s rash tendencies. She has a habit of leaping headfirst into situations without giving any thought to her safety or the safety of her unborn child. I did not care for the character of Marian. She seemed to me to be too mannish, as if, in order to create a ‘strong’ female protagonist, the author had written a male character and just changed the clothes and pronouns. She is too assertive, too reckless for a woman of her time. The author did a better job with the gentle sister and the thoughtful, dependable brother-in-law.

I also have to question the subtitle ‘… the most dangerous woman in Europe.’ Nothing in this story, the first of three, suggests Marian deserved that description.

Aside from my dislike of Marian, I found much to like in this book. The writing is so reminiscent of the period, particularly the dialogue but also the narrative. The author has captured the flavour of the era nicely and without long and irrelevant descriptions of clothing. Full marks for that. Also, the plot never lets up. No sooner do the characters begin to believe their problems are over than another wrinkle appears.

On the whole, this is an enjoyable book that kept my interest and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

****

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