A Cousinly Connexion
I often think of the old Regencies with nostalgia. But I also remember that it was pretty hard to sort the good Regencies from the mediocre, just from the sheer volume of authors and publishers. We remember the ones who made it big; the no-longer-publishing gems often remain hidden. Which is why I’m so grateful, now, for the Internet. If many people from a reputable site (like, say, reviewers and readers at AAR) tell me that Sheila Simonson is worth looking into, then I’ll bloody well get her book on those recommendations alone.
A Cousinly Connexion embodies what I think of as “typical” Regency qualities, and does so charmingly. The plot is character-driven, for one thing – no spies in sight or weird paranormal ghosts wafting about. Just a wounded soldier who unexpectedly inherits his estranged father’s estate; an irritable, nervy step-mother and a passel of half-siblings; a bluff, good-hearted Yorkshire friend; and the step-mother’s niece Jane, who comes to visit and takes the family in hand.
For another, events move slowly, at least compared to the hyper-accelerated timeline typical to many novels these days. Julian needs time, after all, to recover from his wounds, learn about the estate, become acquainted with his semi-estranged family, and banter with Jane. The half-siblings have to get used to their quietly sardonic half-brother, so different from the previous heir, a charismatic, larger-than-life liability. And of course, Jane needs to be there to handle her aunt, keep the peace, run away from her own suitor, fob off her father, and banter with Julian.
Put that way, the summary almost diminishes the book. But how does one describe the virtues of, say, Orangina when you’re used to orange Crush? There is comfort in both, but all one can say is that, well, they might be the same, but Orangina is better. If you’ve read Regencies before, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then this is a very good place to start.
And after only one book, I can tell that Ms. Simonson was (for I believe she is no longer writing) decidedly better than many of her colleagues. A Cousinly Connexion is not the finest example of the genre – for all its good qualities, it is still ordinary, breaking no boundaries and staying in strictly familiar territory. But the author does so in such witty, fun, calming, and undeniably comforting fashion that I shrug, accept, and enjoy the book.