As we – who live in daylight savings time zones that is – already know, yesterday brought the time change euphemistically known as ‘Spring Forward’.
I think it is safe to say I have never sprung forward in my life. At best, I trudge, grumbling as I go (of course), into six months of awaking far too early. Various relatives, grandparents etc would condemn me as ‘lazy bones’. Not true. My body clock is simply set differently – for me 2:00 AM to bed and 10:00 AM to rise is just plain ‘right’. I decided to pass the ‘Spring Forward’ day as I usually do – sulking on the sofa with a book. I grabbed the first one on my pile, Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney – a mystery set in England’s Edwardian high society world.
From the book’s dust jacket:
“When a marriage proposal appears imminent for the beautiful – if rebellious – Lady Rose Summer, her father wants to know if her suitor’s intentions are honorable. He calls on Captain Harry Cathcart, the impoverished younger son of a baron to do some intelligence work on the would -be finance, Sir Geoffrey Blandon. After his success in uncovering Geoffrey’s dishonorable motives, Harry fashions a career out of “fixing” things for wealthy aristocrats. So when the Marquess of Hedley finds one of his guests dead at a lavish house party, he knows just the to call. But when Harry is caught between his client’s desire for discretion and his suspicion that murder may indeed have been committed, he enlists the help of Superintendent Kerridge of the Scotland Yard and Lady Rose, also a guest at Lord Hedley’s.”
We quickly find out Lady Rose was photographed at suffragette demonstration, well read and intelligent. Strike three for a titled girl in Edwardian world. We also discover she is lacking in the social graces/skills need to function in her environment as well as having no discernible survival instinct and, well, basically unlikable. Her social ineptitude is finally explained about a third of the way into the book when she speaks about her parents, “It was only on my seventeenth birthday when they asked how old I was that they realized they would need to prepare me for a season.”. Ah. An explanation at last, but still not enough to warm to her. And finally, nearing the end of the book, “I always feel as if I am outside of them all, surveying some elaborate play and I do not know my lines.” If only this revelation had come earlier.
As for Harry? I started out liking him. The enjoyment quickly dissipated when we see that he is jealous of Lady Rose’s intelligence and rude to her : He calls her ‘unfeminine’ on many occasions which would seem to be the ultimate insult in Edwardian society.
However, I stuck with this book because I did like the secondary characters, Rose’s maid Daisy and Harry’s servant Becket. These two were three dimensional, smarter than their employers, personable, and I wanted to know more about them. There was a spark between them and I liked their development.
A quick word about about the setting and additional character development: There wasn’t nearly enough. Rose’s fellow guests sort of blended together and I think Superintendent Kerridge could have had a bit more focus.
I really wanted to like this book. It had potential: The main characters are both intelligent misfits in their society – it could have worked. But for me it fell a bit flat. All that said, if you are sulking on your sofa and need a quick read, Daisy and Becket are a likable duo.