The Riddle of the Shipwrecked Spinster
Do you ever watch those A&E/Masterpiece Theater period dramas? The ones where there is lots of intrigue and action behind those fabulous costumes, and even if it’s not Pride & Prejudice or The Buccaneers, it’s still entertaining. That’s what The Riddle of the Shipwrecked Spinster was like for me. Not quite Austen, but still a good read.
The book opens with society mama Regina Stansbury plotting on behalf of her “speechless, spotted, and fat” daughter Cordelia. Poor Cordelia is not as bad as all that, but she’s definitely not an incomparable, and everyone makes sure that she knows it. When Regina overhears two young ladies making plans that regard Gervaise Valerian, who’s quite the catch, she does a little underhanded work of her own and manages to make it look like Valerian has compromised Cordelia. When they’re discovered, a furious Valerian has no option but to offer for Cordelia, but the cruel, snickering comments don’t stop and Cordelia is humiliated. When she leaves for Egypt to obtain her father’s blessing, there is a shipwreck, and Cordelia is presumed dead.
When Cordelia reappears more than a year later, Valerian wants nothing to do with her, and the family honor is left in the hands of Valerian’s cousin Piers Cranford, who is forced to offer for Cordelia. Piers has already been charmed by Miss Mary Westerman, so he’s not only loathe to offer for someone else, but he really doesn’t want to go to all this trouble just to help out the annoying Valerian. When Piers does offer for Cordelia, who isn’t quite the picture of a humiliated spinster that he’d expected, all he gets in response is her hysterical laughter. As Piers gets to know Cordelia better he comes to realize that he’s fallen in love with her, just when Valerian changes his mind and decides to renew the betrothal.
The focus of the book is Piers, rather than the romance, so we see Piers as he contends with more problems than his potential marriage to Cordelia, such as his financial difficulties and the fact that sinister things are happening around him. It is Piers’ thoughts and feelings that I got to know during the course of the book, and he is truly an honorable man. Piers doesn’t want to worry his twin brother, Peregrine, with any of the problems surrounding him, so he shoulders all the worry himself, which came across as very endearing.
Although this is a charming romp of a book, it has a heroine you can’t quite trust, since Cordelia makes a couple of shocking revelations that make me wonder what else she’ll keep from Piers once they’re married. She is nice enough and has an explanation for everything, but it still didn’t make her as likable a character as Piers. Some of the secondary characters go a bit overboard in keeping with the overall romp atmosphere of the book, but all in all, The Riddle of the Shipwrecked Spinster made for enjoyable reading.