Tamsin Harte put me into a reading trance, but not a good one. I found myself reading along until I was jolted out of my reverie only to find that pages had past and not much had happened.
The time period for Tamsin Harte is very, very hard to pin down. It takes place in Penzance where people go to take a vacation by the sea. The book mentions bathing machines and “the old Queen” whom I take to refer to Victoria. The women still wear long skirts. One of the characters drives a Rolls Royce and the passengers wear motoring goggles. I am assuming from these clues that the book takes place in the early 1900’s.
Tamsin Harte is a formerly wealthy young woman whose father died and left her and her mother bankrupt. Along with losing their money, the Harte women have also lost their places in the social order. There is much discussion about social order and being in one’s place by the characters, but I’m afraid that much of this was too subtle for my American sensibilities. Tamsin and her mother run a rooming house that caters to people on vacation – or perhaps I should say holiday – if you are not up on Britspeak, you may be lost during the course of this novel.
Tamsin actually enjoys running the rooming house, and does not miss the Social scene at all. What she does want is to graduate from rooming house manager to hotel owner. But for that she needs money. So Tamsin arranges to meet Victor Thorne, a wealthy vacationer. Along the way, Tamsin also meets David Peters, the handsome son of one of the local fishermen and Standish Coverley the some of the owner of the grandest hotel in Cornwall.
Tamsin is a pert and perky young woman who does some things that raised my eyebrows. Somehow, I can’t see a young woman in this time period skinny-dipping with her maid and two young men who were strangers a few minutes ago. She is quite likable though, just pert and perky enough to be charming without becoming saccarine-sweet.
The male characters do not fare as well. Tamsin is torn between the promise of financial security offered by Victor Thorne and the feelings engendered in her by David Peters. Neither of these characters came to life for me. When I can’t picture a character in my mind, that’s a bad sign and although they were both described, I was never able to see them.
Tamsin Harte was a book that for me had individual parts that were better than the whole. I’d especially like to mention the scene where Tamsin’s mother gives her “the talk” regarding all these new and wondrous feelings that are running around inside her. Mrs. Harte is a wise and loving woman and her advice to Tamsin is warm and sensible. This is a wonderful scene.
Try Tamsin Harte only if you are fond of slower paced historical novels. It’s not an epic – it’s a slice of life regarding the coming to life of a young woman during one summer. Tamsin Harte is smoothly written and Tamsin is an engaging character, but for me the book was a little too leisurely paced to make it a totally successful reading experience.