When Horses Fly
When Horses Fly, with its interesting premise and admirable heroine, didn’t live up to its promise. It started well, but lost steam as the story progressed.
Cora, an impecunious young woman, offers her household and nursing skills to elderly relatives in exchange for room and board. After her latest patient’s death, she travels to a post as a nurse to Lord Wintercroft, an elderly distant cousin whom she has never met. She is met at the stage by a grim, brusque man, who, nevertheless, gallantly pursues the coach after it takes off – with Cora’s luggage still on it.
After successfully retrieving her luggage, they set off for the house, which Cora finds in sad repair and in bad need of cleaning. Lord Wintercroft turns out to be a not so elderly, but quite disagreeable, man. He has also invited various members of his family, which he seems to delight in disparaging, to his home. Cora is surprised to discover that her escort is Lord Wintercroft’s son and heir, Alexander. She gets a bigger surprise, along with the rest of the family, when Lord Wintercroft announces that he has invited her into his house not as his new nurse but as his new wife, and consequently, the sole recipient of his fortune.
At first, Cora plans to leave, but then thinks it over and decides to stay and try to heal the troubled family. She negotiates a long engagement period with Lord Wintercroft and leeway in making improvements to the house to accomplish her task. As she slowly makes progress with both house and family, she earns the grudging admiration of Alexander, for whom she feels an increasing attraction.
Cora is an easy character to like and admire. She has a sense of humor and isn’t afraid of challenges. I liked her scenes where she stands her ground against the intimidating Lord Wintercroft. She’s hard working, strong-willed, and determined. Cora derives satisfaction from caring for people, but she does yearn for someone to care for her.
Alexander isn’t readily likable. His initial unfriendliness toward Cora, even before his father made his surprise announcement, doesn’t make sense. However, he does show kindness all along and has a dry sense of humor. He has had a hard life because his father hates that Alexander is not his real son but the product of an affair between his wife and an unknown man, so he gains sympathy points, even if his characterization is somewhat underdeveloped.
When Horses Fly starts out strong, but then becomes rushed and muddled. Bishop tells, rather than shows, how Cora and Alexander fall in love. Still, she manages to neatly weave in a decent subplot about a mysterious smuggler in the area.
Had the book been forty pages longer, it would have been a more satisfying read. As it is, it is only passable Regency Romance fare.