The Major Meets His Match
The Major Meets His Match has lots of excellent elements: An exciting story, an intelligent hero, a forthright heroine, a totally delightful teenage boy who is the target of assassins, a clergyman who is sort of “Mr. Collins lite,” and much more. The only thing it lacks is a couple who made a good couple.
After serving in the army as an engineer, Major Charles Tyrone started his own company; currently he’s building a bridge in Scotland. While on location, he receives an urgent message from the head of the Tyrone family, the Earl of Wyvern. The earl is very ill, his son and heir was killed in an accident, and his grandson Julian lies in a coma. Since Charles is next in line to the earldom, he has to come back home – now!
Charles is not happy – though not estranged from his family, he’s always been his own man and has no desire to be an earl. But Charles is a Tyrone – and dutiful – and off he goes.
The Tyrone household is in a state of confusion. The earl is old and too feeble to be of much help, Julian is still in a coma, and various other Tyrones are sniffing around and making trouble. Add to all this the earl’s ward, Lady Vanessa Rayne. She is worried about young Julian, of whom she is very fond, and, as the daughter of a duke, she is more than just a touch arrogant – Charles is in trade.
Julian comes out of his coma, and it looks like he will make a full recovery, but then someone tries to poison him, and the poor boy is the target of several more attempts on his life before it’s all over. There are several Tyrone relatives who would benefit from Julian’s death, and Charles is in danger as well. But who is trying to kill Julian? Could it be Ambrose Tyrone, the local vicar who is firmly under the thumb of his mama? Or perhaps the foppish Sir Godfrey Tyrone, who has the manner of a man-milliner, but is deadly with a blade? And given that all the Tyrones have servants, how hard would it be to pay them to be an assassin?
This story reads quickly and will engross the reader. I loved Julian; he was a delightful young man, and the rest of the supporting characters were a lot of fun too, especially Horatia Tyrone, Ambrose’s battle-axe of a mother. She’s a wonderfully over-the-top character, and I couldn’t help but laugh at her eeevil antics.
Charles Tyrone is a self-made man in an age when that was not a compliment. The man is so bracing and full-blooded that he makes the rest of his tonnish family seem rather pallid. He’s like a breath of fresh air in an overheated ballroom, and I liked him from the start. Vanessa is the kind of strong, intelligent character I normally like as well, and she and Charles seem to be eminently suited for each other. But for the longest time, they don’t like each other at all, never mind being attracted.
Lady Vanessa Rayne is plain, but she is a duke’s daughter and very aware of that fact. At first she spends a lot of time looking down her nose at Charles – why, not only was the man a lowly engineer in the Army, he continued in that line of work, which makes him a tradesman. Oh the horror! Vanessa’s snobbishness mixes with resentment and jealousy; though she is a smart and capable woman, this cit, this mushroom, this man who stinks of the shop, comes waltzing in at the request of her guardian and takes over. Charles does not like her haughty attitude and for the longest time she is Her Arrogant Ladyship to him. It’s pretty far along in the story before they begin to appreciate each other’s good qualities and realize what a well-matched couple they make.
Had The Major Meets His Match been a full-length novel, the time it took for the romance to catch fire would not have been an issue. But given the form’s relatively short word count, it was a problem, one which meant the book fell a trifle short in the romance department. But its other good qualities – the interesting story, the wonderful characters, and a sweet-as-can-be epilogue – made me want to give Blair Bancroft another try.