Desert Isle Keeper
Proper English is the latest offering from K.J. Charles. It’s a standalone novel with a loose connection to her earlier Think of England via its main protagonists, who were first introduced in that story. I have yet to read any of Ms. Charles’ other books, but Think of England is one I definitely plan to check out.
Patricia – Pat – Merton is struggling to figure out what to do with her life now that her eldest brother has married. Up until now, she’s lived in her ancestral family home and has done a stellar job of managing the house and estate. Now though, she finds herself feeling a bit adrift, so she accepts an invitation to a shooting party being held at the country house of family friend Jimmy Yoxall. Not only will she be able to spend time in the country air, but the party will also give Pat an excuse to spend time with another one of her brothers.
Before I go any further, it’s important for readers to know that Pat Merton is no proper English Miss. She’s quite sharp-tongued, prefers wearing trousers, and is one of the best shooters in England. She’s not interested in the usual pastimes enjoyed by most society women, so her friends are all men. In some ways, this has caused society to look down on her, but Pat isn’t unduly worried about the narrow-minded opinions of people she rarely spends time with.
Once Pat arrives at Jimmy’s family estate, she is dismayed to learn that Jimmy’s fiancée has invited herself to the party, bringing several other guests along with her. Suddenly, Pat’s dreams of spending long days out hunting with Jimmy and her brother Bill are shattered, as now, she’ll now be forced to spend most of her time indoors with the other women. But as soon as Pat lays on Miss Fenella Carruth, the woman who will soon be Jimmy’s wife, she is struck by her grace and her beauty, and the prospect of spending time in her company suddenly doesn’t seem quite so arduous.
Pat and Fen are almost immediately drawn to one another. Pat begins giving Fen shooting lessons as an excuse to spend time alone with her, and it doesn’t take long before the two realize that they are feeling something much deeper than friendship. But when another guest is brutally murdered, and a terrible storm keeps the guests stranded on the estate, Pat and Fen are faced with something far more dangerous than their blossoming attraction to one another.
I enjoyed every moment I spent with Pat and Fen. Both women are well-drawn, and I adored watching them fall in love. They complement each other beautifully, making it easy for me to see them as a couple in spite of the fact they have only known each other for a few days. Fen’s warmth and easy charm are the perfect foil for Pat’s quick wit and impetuous ways.
The novel is brimming with period detail that made me feel as though I’d traveled back in time to 1902. Ms. Charles must have done a great deal of research in order to bring such an immersive sense of time and place to her work. The language, style of dress, and overall attitudes of the characters felt completely authentic, allowing me to totally immerse myself in this world.
The mystery element of the novel will appeal most to those who enjoy Agatha Christie-style thrillers. It’s not particularly dark or violent, but it adds the perfect layer of tension to the overall story. Fen and Pat make fabulous detectives, working tirelessly to uncover the killer’s identity before he or she can claim another victim.
In short, Proper English is a delightful historical romance with just enough mystery thrown in to keep things interesting. Whether you’re an established fan of Ms. Charles’ work or a first-time reader like me, the novel is sure to keep you thoroughly entertained.