Amazing and awesome.
One of my favorite bits about The Daughter of the Manor is the game of hide and seek - I love that James is willing to chuck his dignity in the bin and get a bit silly with the kids. Lots of books in the canon have the heroine out in the garden tossing balls and ringing 'round the rosie, but usually the RDD/RED is more of an observer.
What's your favorite bit of child interaction in the canon?
|Guess which two are first cousins?|
That's our girl--Leonora Crosby, daughter of the ramshackle manor, engaged to be married to Tony 'something in the City' Beamish and crushed under the weight of financial burdens and her parents' unrealistic expectations.
She's hit a bad patch and metaphorically taken a nasty spill. She's also stepped on some ice wrong and actually taken a nasty spill. Both her bottom and her soul can feel the cold, wet awfulness of reality seeping in.
Enter the hero. (What?! Our hero is not her intended? To which I answer, 'His name is Tony, is it not?')
He skids to a well-bred halt in his great, socking something-or-other and takes in all that fallen loveliness, suffers her rudeness and is charmed when she apologizes. Charmed but, alas, not enchanted.
Dr. James Galbraith (a man with a name that all but screams, Come with me and be my love and we shall all the pleasures prove...), the newly engaged G.P. for the area, tells us right at the outset that Leonora is 'not a girl he could be interested in'. My, my his pride is climbing a mighty tall ladder...
For her part, she is a little embarrassed to have met him in such a way, is thrilled to have a 'something in the City' kind of fiance to dangle on her arm and tells him, 'I am never ill.'
Editorial Note: She says it a couple of times and I kept waiting for La Neels to strike her down with a case of exhaustion or measles or even a horrible flu but she stays as healthy as a horse for the duration.
So let's discuss Tony instead.
This novel can be bisected into two parts. Before, (with) Tony (BT)and After Tony (AT).
Before she throws his can to the curb, Leonora puts up with flying visits, intermittent phone calls (and no letters, love or otherwise), pompous discourses on subjects ranging from 'Why I am the most important person in the room' to 'Why you should pay more attention to me', and appallingly dismissive comments that set the seal on his scum and villainy, such as, 'Don't bother your pretty head...' Of course her mother loves him.
So, for Leonora, life BT is an unending juggling act of meeting everyone's needs but her own.
Is it any wonder, then, that Buntings, the newly purchased home of Dr. Galbraith, calmly presided over by Cricket (!), is, in contrast, an oasis of civility and comfort?
But the manor isn't all that bad, thinks Tony 'something in the City' Beamish. With a good deal of money poured into fixing it up, the old people carted off to a modern home (...where Sir William would be less likely to contract pneumonia, he tells Leonora while employing his puppy eyes), and it could be a gathering place for all the other 'somethings in the City'.
And then Leonora finds out. (Release the Kraken!)
Pouring out her troubles to an admiring and still charmed (but still un-enchanted) Doctor Galbraith (who never liked Tony and thought Leonora was a good deal too good for him), he suggests following Tony to London and getting explanations from the source. Oh, and he'll give her a lift.
She opts for the Blitzkrieg approach and before we know it she's chucking her engagement ring at his flummoxed head (You mean you didn't want to be wed for your material goods and shoe-horned into a life of urban misery?)
|Leonora supposed she was happy the engagement|
was broken but, just too late, had a brainwave about
a cake that would have saved the day.
Mother is crushed. (Isn't it alwaysabout Mother?) Father seems to be aware that he's not been paying attention. But no one really helps matters. Mother even begins thinking of match-making between Leonora and James (as long as there's a stray man with a Rolls lying about unclaimed...) which makes her daughter want to go into hiding.
And she does for a little bit. Though Tony continues to skulk about...
...until James asks her to be a part-time, temporary receptionist for him. It turns out that being a daughter of the manor is a transferable skill-set. She knows everyone for miles, knows how to deal with complaints and upsets...She's a gem. So James asks if she wouldn't mind working for him for keeps. And since that leaky roof isn't fixing itself...
Tony makes one last try and James gets to dump tea all over him (awe. some.) and Leonora gets to keep her dignity intact.
|Of course, if one wanted to snog in a|
cupboard and Peter O'Toole wasn't about,
James was not a shabby substitute...
Life After Tony is pretty great but now that lovely, gentle, undemanding relationship is thrown off the skids. She is aloof and he is confused but they'll get there. But first his sister is coming to check her out. They play-hide-and-seek which is, in this case, not entirely a euphemism for snogging in a cupboard...Leonora has a dawning realization while James walks her home from this excursion.
Nanny gets ill.
James advertises for a part-time receptionist (but he has one!) and Leonora is fit to be tied. He finally sacks her outright and she demands an answer to the $64,000 question 'Why?!' Happily, he offers to explain. But first we'll have a break for a medical emergency. (A barn roof collapses with children inside which begs the question, 'What did The Great Betty have against children?')
But when that's cleared up (you know, aside from the ruined lives of all those families...) they adjourn to Buntings where he proposes. But what about Mother and Father and Nanny? (Yes, yes, is Mother to be dipped in boiling oil or merely defenestrated? Enquiring minds want to know...)
James' answer, superficially similar to Tony's 'Don't worry your pretty head', is its polar opposite in meaning and intent. 'Will you leave everything to me?'
Rating: I was deep into this one before I decided that I really like it quite well. There are almost nonexistent sparks between our hero and heroine initially, but what saves this from being boring is the Terrible Machinations of Tony 'something in the City' Beamish and the Sensible Un-knotting of Her Love Life from Leonora. Sure, she's a watering pot while severing her engagement with that awful slug of a man but her great good sense is a comfort and a prop to the reader even while she's grizzling into a certain British G.P.s wool suit coat.
After Tony (ugh) is disposed of, things pick up between Leonora and James nicely.
One of my favorite things about the book is getting a peek at how she holds the manor house together by being thrifty, hard-working and unfailingly patient with her self-absorbed parents. How could James fail to fall in love with that?
We're handing out a lot of these lately but I give it a boeuf en croute.
Food: Leonora is hard-up but gets a lot of mileage out of eggs. She makes souffle and scrambled eggs and omlettes. We also get scones, grilled sole, mushroom and garlic soup eked out with chicken stock, Melba toast, oxtail soup, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, apple tart, artichoke soup, cheese pudding, baked potato piled high with baked beans (which The Great Betty passes off as comfort food), his and hers beverages (beer and lemonade in that order), corned beef pie, and junket with clotted cream. Cricket, over the moon that Leonora has come for lunch, breaks out a mortar and pestle to make some anchovy paste stuff.
Fashion: Our poor heroine doesn't show to her best advantage while wearing shabby tweeds and wellies, an elderly mac, an old blue dress, a sensible pinny, a scarf, and a bathrobe. Her party dress is a dire-sounding modest silver-grey velvet (and I'm all for modest but you just know that neckline is under her chin). She wears a stone-colored jersey dress to drop Tony...erm...like a stone. And Janice the Un-Wed Runaway Mother wears shorn locks in vibrant and improbable chestnut, a stud in one nostril, long, dangling earrings and the shortest skirt Leonora had ever seen.