Title: Lady Fortescue Steps Out
Author: Marion Chesney
First published January 1, 1992
152 pages, Hardcover
ISBN: 9780312082314 (ISBN10: 0312082312)
In the delightful book “Lady Fortescue Steps Out” by Marion Chesney, readers are transported to a world where elderly widow Lady Fortescue seeks to escape genteel poverty. With the help of five geriatrics, she hatches a plan to relieve rich relatives of costly trinkets and turn her house into a hotel for the ton.
However, her nephew, the Duke of Rowcester, is initially horrified by the idea. That is until he meets the hotel’s chef, Miss Harriet James.
With her striking green eyes and memories of their waltz together, the Duke finds himself drawn to the charming young woman, who has inherited debts after losing her parents. In this heartwarming tale, readers will experience the ups and downs of Lady Fortescue’s ambitious scheme, and the unexpected romance that blossoms between the Duke and Miss Harriet.
About the Author
Marion Chesney Gibbons, a prolific writer of historical romances and detective stories, led an eventful life before becoming a successful author. She began her career as a bookseller at John Smith & Sons Ltd, where she was in charge of the fiction department.
Later, she worked as a theatre critic for the Scottish Daily Mail and as a secretary in the advertising department of Scottish Field magazine. Despite having no shorthand or typing skills, she was appointed as the fashion editor.
She then worked as a crime reporter for the Scottish Daily Express and became the chief woman reporter for the Daily Express in Fleet Street.
After marrying and having a son, Marion and her husband moved to the United States, where they worked for Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star. However, Marion wanted to spend more time with her son and started writing historical romances in 1977, encouraged by her husband.
She wrote over 100 romances under her maiden name and several pseudonyms, including Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, Helen Crampton, Charlotte Ward, and Sarah Chester. However, she grew tired of writing about the same time period and began writing detective stories in 1985 under the pseudonym M.C. Beaton.
While on a holiday in Sutherland, Scotland, Marion was inspired to write the first Constable Hamish Macbeth story during a fishing course. She and her husband eventually settled in the Cotswolds, where she created the character of Agatha Raisin.
Marion’s life was full of adventures, and she succeeded in becoming a well-known and respected author.
“Lady Fortescue Steps Out” by Marion Chesney is a delightful novel that takes readers on a journey to 1902 England. Chesney, who also writes under the pseudonyms M.C. Beaton and Sarah Chester, is a prolific author known for her historical fiction and cozy mystery novels.
This book is no exception, and it is sure to captivate readers who enjoy immersive period pieces filled with humor, romance, and gentle social commentary. Set in the sleepy village of Little Ton, “Lady Fortescue Steps Out” follows the adventures of Lady Lovelace, a sophisticated and resourceful widow who is forced to downsize after her late husband leaves her with a mountain of debts.
With the help of her loyal maid and a few unlikely allies, Lady Lovelace sets out to reinvent herself as a boarding-house keeper and lead her fellow “reduced gentlefolk” to a better life. Along the way, she must navigate the treacherous waters of society gossip, nosy neighbors, and the unexpected arrival of a handsome American millionaire who sweeps her off her feet.
Chesney brings the period to life with her vivid descriptions of Victorian-era customs, dress, and etiquette, and her characters are a charming mix of quirky and endearing. Lady Lovelace is a fearless and witty heroine, who is constantly surprising those around her with her unconventional ideas and schemes.
Her supporting cast includes a dashing former soldier, a love-struck cleric, and a motley crew of eccentric boarders, each with their own secrets and troubles. One of the strengths of “Lady Fortescue Steps Out” is Chesney’s ability to balance light-hearted humor with poignant moments of reflection on the challenges faced by women of that era.
Whether Lady Lovelace is contending with a domineering male relative, fighting for her independence, or pining for the romance she feared had passed her by, readers will find themselves rooting for her every step of the way. Chesney also provides insights into the social and economic realities of the time, depicting a society in transition where old hierarchies and traditions are giving way to new opportunities and freedoms.
The writing is elegant and engaging, with a charming turn of phrase and a pace that keeps the pages turning. While the plot may be predictable in places, Chesney infuses it with enough surprises, humor, and heart to keep readers invested.
The themes of resilience, reinvention, and the power of friendship and community are timeless and resonant, making this a book that will appeal not just to fans of historical fiction, but to anyone who enjoys a good story with a strong female lead. Overall, I highly recommend “Lady Fortescue Steps Out” to readers who enjoy light, witty historical fiction with romantic elements.
While it may not be the most ambitious or groundbreaking novel of its kind, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and well-crafted one, and a testament to Chesney’s skill as a storyteller. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.