18 February 2011

Historical Fiction Challenge 2011: There Must be Murder - Margaret C. Sullivan

Summary: Henry and Catherine Tilney are content with their married life: a comfortable parsonage, their dogs, and one another. The idea of returning to Bath a year after they first met there seems like it can only add to their happiness; but Catherine finds that Bath still
carries social dangers that she must learn to navigate. What is the nature of Henry's past relationship with a beautiful young woman? Why is a rakish baronet paying Catherine such particular attention? Is General Tilney going to marry the woman known in Bath as The Merry Widow—and what did she have to do with her husband's death? And will Henry ever be able to keep his Newfoundland out of the river? Revisit the winter pleasures of Georgian Bath with your favorite characters from Jane Austen's hilarious Northanger Abbey, and prepare for a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, and a very nice story indeed! (Summary
Source: Amazon)
Comments: I must say in the beginning, I love the way Mags writes, so take my effusions with a grain of salt if you must, but this is just such a wonderful story. Ms. Sullivan retains the main characters of the Tilney clan, which now includes Catherine Morland, as the wife of
the Reverend Henry Tilney of Woodston parish, and adds a new family known to the Tilneys, the Beauclerks, and some strong supporting characters.

Henry suggests to Catherine that they return to Bath on the anniversary of the day they met there one year previously. Traveling with MacGuffin, their Newfoundland, and Matthew, Henry's very intelligent and subtle clerk/groom, the couple venture to Bath. Unexpectedly, they meet General Tilney, Henry's less than delightful father, who is there with the intention, it appears, of courting Lady Beauclerk, a widowed friend of the family who inherited a good deal of money on her husband's recent death. Eleanor, Henry's sister, and her husband (Viscount) Lord Whiting, are also in Bath so perhaps all is not lost in the trip. Lord Whiting is charming, funny, and rather blunt. Eleanor is charming as ever and kind almost to a fault.
Lady Beauclerk has taken a place in Bath with her still unmarried though etherial daughter, Miss Beauclerk whose beauty and charm are enough to make poor Catherine feel clunky in comparison. Thankfully, Henry is always Henry and there is no hint that he's interested in
Miss Beauclerk and does his best to reassure Catherine. Catherine is also introduced to Philip Beauclerk, the nephew of Lady Beauclerk, who will inherit the Beauclerk estate.

Catherine must learn how not to let her love of Gothic mysteries get the better of her (as it did in Northanger Abbey) when Lord Beauclerk's slightly odd sister accuses Lady Beauclerk and Miss Beauclerk of killing their husband/father. 
Mags has crafted some charming characters including Matthew, who is intelligent, and a skilled "spy" for Henry. Lord Whiting is so real that when I last read Northanger Abbey, I expected him to be in the story.  Henry and Catherine are true to their characters, though perhaps Catherine is a bit wiser now. Would I be too terrible if I said one of my favorite characters is MacGuffin? I hope not. The illustrations are wonderful - Great job - Cassandra Chouinard. This is a great story and I highly recommend it.

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