Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: A Rather Charming Invitation by C. A. Belmond

I first made the acquaintance of Penny Nichols and Jeremy Laidley in the first novel in this fun and frothy caper series, A Rather Lovely Inheritance and was pleased to revisit them again in this third book in the quartet, A Rather Charming Invitation. As a novel, it lives up to its title, being charming indeed.

As the story opens, Penny and Jeremy are engaged and living in London, having set up their own discreet business tracking down art and treasures when a previously unknown young cousin of Penny's arrives on their doorstep in the company of the police. Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, they are resolved to take Honorine back to France and her family. In so doing, they meet Penny's French relatives, who have a genteelly decaying manor house, gorgeous flower fields, and a perfumery. While there, they sense the hidden tensions in Honorine's family and Penny's Tante Leonora offers to let them marry beneath the gorgeous, antique, bridal tapestry woven by Oncle Philippe's ancestor, all the while assuming that they will be married in France. When they head back to England, with Honorine still in tow to work as their office assistant, they must also face Jeremy's rigid and proper upper crust grandmother, who naturally assumes that they will be married in England in the church of her choosing.

With so many people weighing in, Penny agonizes and dithers over the wedding particulars, unable to pin anything down, including which country they'll be married in, and uncertain why she's suddenly so indecisive. What it boils down to is that she's got cold feet. When she does finally overcome her concerns and come up with the perfect compromise that still reflects Jeremy's and her taste and feelings, things start to go tits up. The priceless tapestry is stolen and it is up to Penny and Jeremy to find it and get it back, not only to maintain family harmony, but also so that they can get married underneath it as planned. That the elaborate tapestry appears to be telling a story long thought to be apocryphal and that makes it that much more valuable to whomever can decipher its meaning first ups the ante on the search.  Add in the fact that the time frame to find it is rapidly shrinking almost to nothing and you know you're in for another careening search a la Nichols and Laidley.

Penny and Jeremy as characters are as appealing as ever. They clearly love each other and their relationship is supportive and sweet without being sappy. Their lifestyle is definitely glamorous and luxurious and that gives it a sort of golden age feel although technology firmly grounds it in the here and now. Penny's worries about other people telling her that marriage spells the end of love does seem a bit far-fetched given that her own parents are still so happily married and that fact that many people who offer this sort of advice are joking but that's a minor quibble for this lighthearted and delightful romantic caper. Those who have read the others in the series will enjoy this one as well and those who haven't yet read the preceding books should.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review.

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