“But there were also the members of the invisible poor, the victims of genteel poverty who, with many subterfuges and stratagems, hid their condition from the eyes of polite society.” – M. C. Beaton in “Lady Fortescue Steps Out”
“Lady Fortescue Steps Out” is the first book in M. C. Beaton’s “The Poor Relation” series. After just reading her “Daughters of Mannerling” series, I found her writing and style quite agreeable, witty and well paced. This is why I am going on an M. C. Beaton binge until I get sick of it or someone else takes over.
Lady Fortescue is an old widow from the genteel class in regency England but has found herself so poor that she sometimes has nothing to eat. She has to rely on the goodwill of her more affluent relatives and after a terrible experience at the home of her nephew the Duke of Rowcester, she knows something has to change. With four other “Poor Relations” she comes up with the bright idea of pooling their little resources together and living in one place instead of staying hungry on their own. They all move to her house and soon after, “The Poor Relations” hotel is born.
I loved reading this book for several reasons, asides the fact that it was humorous and entertaining, it also brought to light the fact that there are many people even in today’s world who were born rich but are now poor due to some circumstances beyond their control and are forced to keep up appearances to shield their disgrace from the prying eyes of the world. At this time in English history, people of the “genteel class” were not raised to work or “trade” as they call it so if you fell on hard times, you were at the mercy of your rich relatives who had to invite you to their mansions to stay and if your relatives were cruel or merely self centered, then you would starve to death. Lady Fortescue and her friends choose to damn the consequences and take their destinies in their hands despite the disapproval of all their relatives even if some of their choices were outright outrageous and wrong. Another reason I loved this book is the fact that it is a romance novel but didn’t focus of the objects of romance from the onset of the story. The romance creeps up on you and that was different but good. One of the things I love the most about historical fiction is how you learn about history through fiction. I never quite knew the difference between “genteel” and “aristocracy” but I have learnt that from this story.
This was a breezy, easy and funny read. I loved the romance in the story and the happy ending which is what I desire to read these days. I recommend this book to romance lovers and hope you look out for this title. Most importantly, it is very clean with no suggestive or sexual scenes at all which makes it quite suitable for teenagers and Christians to read. I will now move on to the next book in this series.
Rating: 4 Stars
Published: August 15, 2013 by Constable (First Published in 1993)
Genre: Historical Romance
Purchase @ www.amazon.com/ladyfortescuestepsout
The Author: Marion Chesney was born on 1936 in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, and started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department in John Smith & Sons Ltd. While bookselling, by chance, she got an offer from the Scottish Daily Mail to review variety shows and quickly rose to be their theatre critic. She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead. She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter. After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles, Marion went to the United States where Harry had been offered the job of editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian. When that didn’t work out, they went to Virginia and Marion worked as a waitress in a greasy spoon on the Jefferson Davies in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes. Both then got jobs on Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York.
Anxious to spend more time at home with her small son, Marion, urged by her husband, started to write historical romances in 1977. After she had written over 100 of them under her maiden name, Marion Chesney, and under the pseudonyms: Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, Helen Crampton, Charlotte Ward, and Sarah Chester, she getting fed up with 1714 to 1910, she began to write detectives stories in 1985 under the pseudonym of M. C. Beaton. On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Constable Hamish Macbeth story. They returned to Britain and bought a croft house and croft in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep. But Charles was at school, in London so when he finished and both tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds where Agatha Raisin was created.