One Daring Widow
In the social whirl of Victorian England, Elizabeth Chudderley is at the top of every guest list, the life of every party, and the belle of every ball. But her friends and admirers would be stunned to know the truth: that the merriest widow in London is also the loneliest. Behind the gaiety and smiles lies a secret longing—for something, or someone, to whisk her away.
One Reluctant Suitor
Raised in scandal, Lord Michael de Grey is convinced that love is a losing gamble—and seduction the only game worth playing. But when duty threatens to trump everything he desires, the only way out is marriage to a woman of his brother’s choosing. Elizabeth Chudderley is delightful, delicious—and distressingly attractive. With such a captivating opponent, Michael isn’t quite sure who is winning the game. How can such passionate players negotiate a marriage of necessity—when their hearts have needs of their own?
>Rating: B for both content and narration.
Narrator Alison Larkin has tended to be a bit hit and miss for me. There’s no doubt that she is a talented performer, especially when it comes to more light-hearted, humorous books; and her interpretations of female characters and “character roles” are generally very good. But her portrayals of the men in the books she narrates have been disappointing, mostly because they haven’t sounded masculine enough and also because there hasn’t been enough differentiation between the protagonists in the story. I’ve also felt that she hasn’t quite caught the right note emotionally in some of the books I’ve listened to. While I’ve had some issues with her narratives, for the most part she is successful and her readings are generally well-paced and pleasingly modulated.
Given those reservations, I will admit apprehension when I learned that Ms Larkin was to be the narrator of That Scandalous Summer, the first book by Meredith Duran to be made available in audio. I’m a big fan of Ms Duran’s writing, which is intelligent and lyrical. She writes complex characters and pays the reader/listener the compliment of allowing us to draw our own conclusions and to discover those complexities ourselves without repeatedly hitting us over the head with clues to point the way. I wasn‘t sure if Ms Larkin would be able to pull off a story of greater emotional weight than those I’ve heard her read before.
At the beginning of the book, Lord Michael de Grey and his brother, Alastair, the powerful and autocratic Duke of Marwick, have a row which ends with Michael leaving London to kick his heels in rural Cornwall, in the hope that his absence may make Marwick come to his senses.
Michael hasn’t been in Cornwall long, when one morning he literally stumbles across a woman sleeping in his rose bushes. Except, as he soon discovers, she isn’t sleeping – she’s actually passed out from an excess of drink.
The woman is Mrs Elizabeth Chudderley, a lovely and somewhat notorious widow, whom we met previously in Ms Duran’s Bound by Your Touch. Elizabeth at first comes across as an almost stereotypical “merry widow” – a fast woman with little care for her reputation who takes delight in her notoriety. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that her devil-may-care demeanour is masking a truly unhappy, lonely woman. She is thirty-two, her late husband did not treat her well, her lover left her when he discovered she was practically broke and the only way she can think of to solve her financial problems is to marry again. She is not thrilled at the prospect of turning over her life and freedom to another man, but she has many debts and her lover was bleeding her dry. She worries, given her age and situation, that her time for making such an advantageous match is running out.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.