Author: Fay Weldon, 2013.
Genre: Period Fiction. Edwardian Britain. Comedy of Manners. Family Drama.
Other Details: Hardback. 320 pages.
December, 1901 - Adela Annoys Her Father - "Will we be going to the Coronation Father?" - opening Long Live the King.
So opens the second in this trilogy set at the start of the Edwardian era. The opening chapter introduces Edwin, the younger brother of Robert, the Earl of Dilberne, and his wife, Elsie, who is a minor European princess. However, Edwin is a Church of England reverend and he hates his elder brother. He and his family live simply though sixteen-year old Adela is straining against the strict regime imposed by her father in which she is not allowed any contact with her relations and even a Christmas gift from the Countess is ordered to be burnt. Yet Adela's life is about to change dramatically. That she is orphaned is mentioned on the novel's cover and official synopsis and what happens afterwards forms one strand of this tale.
Meanwhile, London Society is in a frenzy of anticipation for the upcoming coronation of the new king, Edward VII. The Earl and Countess of Dilberne are both involved in the lavish preparations as Robert is a close friend of the King and Lady Isobel is to be one of the attendants for Queen Alexandra. To complicate matters Lady Isobel is feeling insecure around Consuelo, the beautiful American heiress who is now the Duchess of Marlborough. Isobel's new daughter-in-law, Minnie, is also an American heiress and is untrained in the ways of the English aristocracy. Rosina, Isobel's own daughter, remains a concern as she is strong-willed and intelligent and unwilling to be part of the marriage market.
This proved an easy light-hearted read as the Earl and Countess attend Balmoral for Christmas with the Royals and deal with the day-to-day running of their homes and the various family crises. There is also a troupe of fake spiritualists, Rosina's cheeky pet parrot, and themes of love and inheritance. While the Earl and Countess of Dilberne are fictional there are various historical figures depicted in the pages.
I felt it was better than the first book in the trilogy, Habits of the House (2012 Book 131), hitting a perfect balance between comedy and drama and capturing all the excitement at the beginning of the new century and the start of the Edwardian age perfectly. I've already obtained Book 3, The New Countess, from the library.