The Travelling Matchmaker: Emily Goes to Exeter by M C Beaton
|The Travelling Matchmaker: Emily Goes to Exeter by M C Beaton|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A Regency romp of the kind you wouldn't mind buying for your mother. Gentle humour and an unbelievable plot nicely worked out.|
|Buy? Maybe not||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 196||Date: February 2011|
Emily Goes to Exeter is by way of Being the First Volume of the Travelling Matchmaker as the subheading has it on the frontispiece: the beginning of a new series obviously.
If like me you have come to Beaton by way of Hamish Macbeth this might seem like something of a diversion. A little research shows you that in fact Marion Chesney, who writes under a number of pseudonyms (including Beaton) has a prolific work-rate. Having produced upwards of 130 books since starting writing full time in the 1980s, focussing on crime and historical romance, there can be few avenues down which she has yet to wander.
That level of output explains everything that disappoints me about Beaton. She is superficial. Her books do have a feeling of having been rushed into print. The final edit is often not what it should be. And it is very clear that she often sets out to write an entire series, rather than writing a book and then thinking, hmm, maybe there's another one in here.
On the other hand, her books never pretend to be anything other than what they are, which is merry little jaunts into whichever territory you have alighted upon. Generally speaking, she plots well, keeps track of her characters (if she can't always remember how to spell their names) and always ties up her ends neatly.
Much of the word-on-the-web is that people want fast, easy reads and we are losing our taste for depth and engagement with books. I beg to differ, but that's a debate for another place. I am happy to admit that there is a time for light reading as well. (In the rare breaks between a particularly stressful work period coinciding with exam-cramming for instance. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)
So: the travelling matchmaker of the title is one Miss Hannah Pym. She entered service at the age of twelve and gradually worked her way up the below-stairs ladders of Thornton Hall to the lofty (servant) heights of Housekeeper: despite which elevation she decided not to adopt the honorary "Mrs" that went with the job and continued to own her spinsterhood. A born meddler in the affairs of others, she has managed to help a few people along the way which, together with being too trusting of a certain footman whose love proved false, has cost her what little savings she might have amassed.
Her beloved mistress ran away years ago (with another untrustworthy footman!) and her master fell into a deep seclusion. Now he has died, and the house is likely to be closed up or sold. Imagine then her astonishment to be left a legacy. Not just the few hundred pounds given to any servant managing to have survived four years' employ in the household but enough to set her up for life, in a small way, and more importantly enough to allow her her dream of travelling on the stage coach.
Miss Pym doesn't want to go anywhere in particular. She just wants to travel. She wants adventure. So off she sets.
The year is 1800. The time is one of change. It is also one of complicated clothing, strict gender rules, highwaymen, smugglers, and the gloriously romantic and decidedly dodgy coaching inns along the main highways. It is a time when women might dress up as men, and almost get away with it if they are young and pretty; one where military men are meant to be chivalrous and seamen are just about as untrustworthy as the average footman. It is also an age where, for reasons totally indiscernible at two centuries remove, people were happy to trust complete strangers with their lives, lies and valuables.
Emily, of the title is running away from an arranged marriage. She is pursued by her prospective husband, who is not necessarily any more enamoured of the idea than she is. Also aboard the Exeter coach are other waifs and strays, loners and mis-matched couples. More than enough fodder for a matchmaker on the loose.
The outcome of the plot is soon entirely predictable: such is the nature of the genre. But it's still a pleasant enough rumble over the rutted cobble-stones, down a few wrong turns and back round into the light. Setting is interestingly well researched. Gentle humour is to be had at the expense of the Regency conventions and, I suspect, at the conventions of 'safe' romantic fiction á la Mills and Boon of yesteryear. This is "romance extra-lite" where the depths of passion are plumbed in a chaste kiss, and bodily stirrings are to be avoided at all costs. It's hard to tell in places whether Ms Chesney/Beaton is playing it for laughs or not.
At under 200 pages, it's one to read at a sitting, but at the full cover price of £6.99, perhaps not the best value on the block.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: for more Regency Romance try Improper Relations by Janet Mullany
You can read more book reviews or buy The Travelling Matchmaker: Emily Goes to Exeter by M C Beaton at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Travelling Matchmaker: Emily Goes to Exeter by M C Beaton at Amazon.com.
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