It’s been a while! I’ve been neglecting this poor blog rather badly, and I have a few books I want to talk about, as well as some recipes I want to post.
Let’s start with the book. This delightful tale comes from the pen of Irish author Catherine Kullmann, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting last April when we were in Dublin. (Can you feel the Wanderlust? Aer Lingus keeps taunting me with their ads, and I need to go back! But that’s for another post.) Much of the action in this novel happens during prolonged house parties, where the assorted guests stay for several weeks. Well, during such parties, one must entertain, and entertaining involves food! This is where the recipe will come in – look for a link after the review. But here’s a tempting hint:
Now for the review:
A Suggestion of Scandal by Catherine Kullmann
When I picked up A Suggestion of Scandal, I was expecting another treat from Catherine Kullmann’s pen, and she did not disappoint me. As with her previous novels (and delightful zombie-esque novella), she tackles issues and themes that are less often approached, with the skill and sensitivity and wit that many authors can only aspire to.
In A Suggestion of Scandal, governess Rosa Fancourt is enjoying one final house party with her charge, Chloe Loring, before the girl is handed over to another tutor to prepare her for her coming out the next year. Among those in the party is Chloe’s half-brother, Sir Julian Loring, who has spent much of the last several years attending to his own affairs. Meeting again as not-quite-strangers, Rosa and Sir Julian strike up a tentative friendship, united by their affection for Chloe. But before long, Rosa is witness to a sight most unsuitable for innocent eyes and vanishes from the estate in a trice, leaving all sorts of rumour and innuendo in her wake.
Not one to doubt his judgment of the governess’ character, Sir Julian refuses to believe these tales and searches for the truth – and Rosa. Chloe, too, desperately misses her friend, and when Sir Julian finds her at last, he convinces her to join him at his grandfather’s estate in an attempt to help recover his young sister’s spirits. But there are others staying at Swanmere, not all of whom appreciate the presence of an impoverished governess and the attention given her by their host, and when a person from Rosa’s past appears without warning, assumptions are made, tainting her with more than just the suggestion of a scandal!
In and amongst these themes of infidelity, jealousy, violence and abuse, however, we have a gentle tale of genuinely likeable main characters. Rosa is no simpering damsel in distress, but an intelligent and self-reliant young woman who is kind and caring and, when needed, can rescue herself without recourse to a knight in shining armour. Sir Julian likewise uses his head and, unlike in so many stories, does not just accept the first unlikely story he hears about her sudden disappearance, but presses for the truth, relying more upon his own experience and the evidence of his eyes than on the tales of others. They are genuine and real, and one can well imagine befriending them both and sitting down to a delightful afternoon of conversation over tea and cakes. As for the “bad guys,” they too are realistic. They have their vices, to be certain, but none is painted as so completely beyond all hope as to be unbelievable. The most vile actions are backed up by very plausible circumstances which make their behaviours, if not acceptable, then at least comprehensible.
Finally the writing – elegant, clear, entertaining. What more need be said? This book is a delight to read, a smart and unusual story, well-told, and definitely worth the time.
Here’s a link to the book on Amazon’s US site. For British readers, replace the .com with .co.uk; for Canadians, replace it with .ca
As I mentioned, every book I read makes me think of food! I promise to get some info up on those luscious fruit tarts really soon! Check back for a link within a day or two.