Thursday, September 01, 2011


Book 4 of the Rather Series
NAL Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-451-23461-2
September 2011
Contemporary Fiction

London and Cornwall, the Present

American historical researcher Penny Nichols and her English step-cousin, attorney Jeremy Laidley, first met when she was nine and he thirteen. They met again when their mutual Great-Aunt Penelope left them as co-heirs to a fortune that includes properties in England and France. The two went on to enjoy their windfall, have several adventures and solved a few mysteries. On the way, they became best friends, grew to love each other, and married. They also joined professionally as Nichols and Laidley, Ltd., discreet enquiry agents specializing in family histories and mysteries and recovering lost treasures. Their adventures have been narrated by Penny in the first three books of Ms. Belmond’s thoroughly captivating Rather series, A RATHER LOVELY INHERITANCE, A RATHER CURIOUS ENGAGEMENT, and A RATHER CHARMING INVITATION. Now it is time to return home to England after their extended honeymoon.

As Penny and Jeremy enter Aunt Pen’s London townhouse, they find two visitors awaiting them with a request for help. It seems Penny’s Grandmother Beryl’s beautiful old house in Cornwall is in danger of destruction. Some years after Penny and Jeremy spent that wonderful summer together there, Beryl sold the house and property to the town of Port St. Francis which then leased it to the Port St. Francis Legacy Society. The society has plans to restore the house and use it and the land for the good of the people of the area. There is some chance the house could be named as a national treasure if certain proof could be found. Not only does this sound right up Nichols and Laidlaw’s alley—and memories of the house arouse nostalgia—but someone very high up well known for his interests in architecture and preservation wishes them to look into the matter. That someone happens to be the Duke of Cornwall, better known as Charles, Prince of Wales, and heir to the throne of England.

So it’s off to Cornwall for our intrepid pair to find reason to prevent a soulless corporation from razing Grandmother Beryl’s house and land and other properties around it to build a huge hotel and playground for the rich. This would displace the present port town and its people by ruining their livelihood; besides the developers are rumored to have ties with gangsters. For starters, Penny and Jeremy are told that William Shakespeare may have spent a year as a resident actor living in what would later become Grandmother Beryl’s house.

Penny and Jeremy set about making friends and following clues. It’s no spoiler to say that they meet some dead ends, but Penny, especially, doesn’t give in at the first disappointment. Included in the story are familiar and new characters. Remember Cousin Rollo and his horrible mother?

A RATHER REMARKABLE HOMECOMING is lovingly written and delightful to read. The suspense builds as the team meets opposition—from more than one source—and as they dig further and further into the past. As Penny and Jeremy bounce between Cornwall and London, with an interesting side trip outside England, the two work together in harmony. While this episode focuses more on the mystery and somewhat less on the relationship between them, Penny and Jeremy have a very pleasing, easy affection for each other and their family and friends. Though, no doubt Penny and Jeremy have their passionate moments, Ms. Belmond kindly respects their privacy

Nichols and Laidley have often been compared to the protagonists in the early Nick and Nora Charles mysteries; I hark back also to the old radio show Mr. and Mrs. North. Younger folk may groan at those references, but they all have this in common, a lightness of touch, determined sleuthing, and likable characters. What the Rather books have besides those is a not-at-all-snobbish sophistication and glamour. They also introduce us to rather exotic (if I may use that term) locales, the people, the customs, and the histories. While A RATHER REMARKABLE HOMECOMING is enjoyable in itself, I highly recommend starting at the beginning, if you haven’t already. The whole series is a marvelous treat.

Jane Bowers

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