Downloaded from Audible. Narrated by Davina Porter.
Elderly widow Lady Fortescue is a poor relation in regency England - one of the genteel poor who are prohibited from any useful employment or of even speaking of their plight. After a particularly stinging humiliation and the chance encounter with a similarly poor colonel, Lady Fortescue decides she has had enough of being respectable but impoverished. She invites the colonel to move in her big but barren home and pool their small resources. This idea grows and other poor relations are invited to join them and eventually they decide to turn the house into a hotel.
Marion Chesney is a pen name for M.C. Beaton. Though the subject matter and setting is quite different from her other series (Hamish MacBeth, Agatha Raisin), the writing style is still very recognizable as Beaton's. And that for me diminished my pleasure in the book. The subject matter of her books always attracts me and I always end the book puzzled and dissatisfied. She has this very direct and blunt way of moving the story along which doesn't allow her characters to live. The result is that I find myself frustrated with or just disengaged with the characters because their behavior seems to come out of nowhere. If I'm rambling on it's because I have a hard time putting my finger on what exactly keeps me from loving Beaton's books.
Despite these frustrations I have with this author's writing style, this book had an interesting idea and a different view of Regency Era England. The approach is with a rather critical modern eye that in a more serious book could have been a poignant look at the cage of social convention that kept the so-called "poor relations" from improving their situation. But this is meant to be a very light and farcical book and it doesn't stray from that intention. It's a very quick read (the audio was just over 4 hours) and the narrator is quite good.
Final verdict is that it would probably quite enjoyable for folks who don't have my Beaton hang-up and are looking for something breezy and regency England.