"a golden Stuart that is a gem"
The Houseparty is a delightful Regency Romance (Fawcett
1985) by Romance's Resident Genius, Anne Stuart. I love a
great many writers for their various styles, but Stuart
seems to do it all, and do it time and again. From the
most provoking dark and sinister psychological thrillers,
to ghostly tales, and with her parade of anti-hero heroes,
no one touches Stuart. This time her delight is making us
love a spy, Captain Michael Fraser. It's a witty dance on
the high wire, with spirited Lizzie Traherne leading
Michael and everyone else on a wild chase.
Sumner, her brother, informs Elizabeth that they are
retiring to the country for the long weekend for a
houseparty at Adolphus Wingert. Lizzie is not amused. She
is especially peeved when Sumner encourages her to permit
Adolphus to court her. There are many reasons why she
wants nothing to do with Adolphus. He favours pink. He
dresses in pink, he is fat like a pink pig and he has fat
pink lips, which he smacks every time he is trying to cop
a feel off Lizzie. Sumner is the local vicar, and Adolphus
is his patron, so Sumner sees a match between his sister
and his patron as good for his position. While Lizzie
admits she is out of the schoolroom at 23-year-old, she's
hardly ready to stick a spoon in the wall, nor is she
about to accept a suit from Adolphus. Another reason
against the match is Adolphus' battle-ax of a mother hates
Lizzie and will go to various extremes to keep her darling
baby boy (40-years- old baby boy) away from
the "unsuitable" Lizzie.
Elizabeth finds, however, the weekend is far from the dull
houseparty she anticipated. Oh, Adolphus is true to form
in his pink get up, so is mummy dearest. There the various
house guests keep things lively. There is Brenna, a
beautiful young lady wanting to snare Sumner, but she has
competition from the Contessa, a luscious young widow, who
is up to something. One needs a dance card to keep score
of whose bedroom she is going in or coming out of next!
Michael Fraser intrigues Lizzie. He is handsome, but with
an air of mystery around him, with rumours swirling about
he is a spy for the French. Since Lizzie's older brother
is doing undercover work for the English in France, she
sees the possibility of Fraser's activities as a peril to
her brother, so sets about to foil Fraser. She
accidentally learns there is a list of English spies in
France hidden somewhere in Adolphus' home, she knows she
must be the one to find it. Her brother's name will appear
on that list and it would mean is arrest and execution.
However, she starts hoping Michael is not a French spy,
and thinks maybe her intervention will prevent his arrest
by the English.
As Lizzie slips around in the middle of the night to find
the list, believing everyone to be asleep, she discovers
the hallways to the bedrooms resembles the opening of A
Shot In The Dark! There is Brenna spying on Sumner. Sumner
slipping into the Contessa's room. But the Contessa just
came from Sir Maurice's room and disappeared into
Michael's. As Lizzie's dashes to hide, the game of musical
rooms continues leaving her exhausted and dizzy!
It a brilliantly funny, lighter Stuart, that will leave
you smiling! A golden oldie that stands the test of time.
Reviewed by DeborahAnne MacGillivray
Posted August 18,
Reviewed by Deborah Macgillivray
Posted January 14, 2007