Miss Ada Westlake has again turned down Chas, Lord Ashmead’s proposal of marriage. Ada is the sensible, practical member of her family which includes her eccentric, artistic older sister Tess who is in the process of composing a great operatic work, Sebastian and the Sea Goddess, her brother’s spendthrift widow Jane, Jane’s under-the-hatches uncle, and his worthless son. It’s Ada’s management alone that has kept the family from tumbling off that final brink into complete financial disaster. Her late wastrel brother had lost her dowry, and Ada cannot accept Chas’s proposal in her penniless state because she does not want to foist all her problems onto him.
Chas drowns his sorrows in blue ruin. He has in his possession a small fortune which was intended to pay a French spy, but the spy did not show. In his inebriated state, Chas conceives the notion to hide the moneybag in an apple tree. Ada had told him of her intention to pick apples the next day. When she finds the money, she will no long be impecunious, and there will be no barrier to her accepting his proposal.
Ada, however, is not so willing to accept this unexpected windfall. She knows the money is not rightfully hers and is determined to find the true owner even though others in her family are encouraging her to spend it on them. As she proceeds to question a number of potential owners including the local leader of a band of smugglers, Chas is forced to stay one step ahead of her to ensure the fortune stays in her hands.
Meanwhile, Chas’s mother, Lady Ashmead decides that it’s time her son married and arranges a house party and invites a number of eligible young ladies. Will true love prevail? Will Tess achieve artistic fame? Will Ada finally figure out where the money came from?
This Regency can properly be termed a romp. Some of the situations in which the characters find themselves are deliciously funny.
There are many reasons that Miss Westlake’s Windfall is such a treat. Admirers of the legendary Georgette Heyer’s regencies will detect some similarities to her works. The plot is clever and amusing, the characters are original and finely portrayed, and the writing sparkles with light-hearted wit.
Jane was in the parlor, conversing with the mamas and aunties and paid companions who chaperone the marriageable misses everywhere, lest they fall into the clutches of rakes, rogues, or fortune hunters. Jane was pouring endless tea and gnashing her teeth that there were no rakes, rogues, or fortune hunters among the company. Her sap-skulled sisters-in-law had devised a party with no partis.
Chas and Ada make a most appealing hero and heroine. Childhood friends, they gradually realize that their feelings have deepened. There is no question but that they’re right for each other. The numerous subordinate characters add to the fun. Leo, the smuggler, and Lady Ashmead are particularly well developed.
Barbara Metzger is an established Regency author and has written a number of entertaining stories. This is one of her best. Fans of the genre will not want to miss Miss Westlake’s Windfall