Publisher: New York: St. Martin's Press
Review source: Library
Reviewed by: Kathy Davie
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane, 1
Lord Peter Wimsey, #14
First in the Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane historical mystery series that continues from where Dorothy Sayers left off in Busman's Honeymoon, the last full-length story in the initial Lord Peter Wimsey series (the LPW/ HV marks the point where Jill Paton Walsh has taken on Sayers' legacy).
It's 1936 and Lord and Lady Peter are coming to London off their honeymoon via Paris.
Oh, this was so warmly wonderful. I have adored Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey stories forever, and I finally took the plunge into Walsh's continuance of this particular story which Sayers had started but never finished. I so hate having to use my own imagination to determine how a series' characters continue through with their lives, and I'm so pleased that Walsh is doing it for me, lazy sod that I am *she says with a laugh*.
Yes, it has been years since I last read any Sayers, and, yes, there is a tiny, tiny bit of disconnect, and I'm curious as to whether Walsh can continue in Presumption of Death. We'll see as it's in the TBR pile of the week. AND, on the whole, it is well worth it as Walsh did a marvelous job of continuing in Sayers' style.
I simply adore the characters in this. Sayers took the stereotypical image of a noble family and turned at least two of its members on their bloodline with Lady Mary marrying out and a policeman, no less! Horrors! But then Lord Peter made everything worse by marrying a possible murderess! A scheming woman who simply took the opportunity to marry in, darlings. At least that's what the horrific duchess believes! Sayers has such fun mocking Helen; it's such a naughty treat to enjoy it! Then there's the lovely dowager duchess and Lord St. George. It's something of a Miss Marple crossed with the Toff with the upper crust mucking with the much, much lower.
As Walsh states in a foreword:I just adore how very much in love these two are and the ways in which they express it. They are so circumspect and so finely in tune with each other. And each is so careful in how they adjust to being married. Harriet so fiercely independent and yet protective of Peter while Peter is so fiercely protective of her independence.
"I have loved and admired Lord Peter since first I met him...his undying charm arises from a characteristic...that he requires as his consort, a spirited woman who is his intellectual equal."
This is one of the loveliest love scenes I've read in a very long time:The two of them are always exchanging quotes from various authors including John Donne, a bit of a favorite of theirs. Then there's that lovely definition of noblesse oblige that Harriet provides. Very sensible.
"I could never storm a citadel, however ill-defended. The only thing that tempts me is a wide-open gate, and the trumpets sounding welcome."
"Alone of all your sex?"
"...I think I would rather explore without a guide."
"No maps of the interior?"
"Just surveys of my own making. What kind of trumpets do you want to sound your welcome?..."
As I think about it, this story is of Harriet and Peter settling down to married life with the murder a convenient [although not to the victim] way of bringing out their individual fears, providing a way for them to confront and settle those fears. I like that each time one of them thinks of offering up an anodyne such as "of course not", they stop. Instead they tell each other the truth. Their consideration for each other should be part of a marriage manual!
OH, Peter has such a lovely justification for Harriet's detective stories. And it's true, detective stories, the suspense, the thrillers, all those types do have a purpose for Joe [and Josephine!] average. That of a world in which justice is fed, a world which ought to be true. It's a hope that, yes, it is possible that all the corruption and greed that decides so many lives does have a counter to it. And so we hope. Read this story if only for what Peter says to his beloved wife. As he explains what is so very valuable about her "good story with a few thrills and reversals".
It's amazing how each clue uncovered, no matter how independent it appears, leads to the next and eventually joins all the puzzle pieces.
Then there's the psychology of comfort and how it makes it so difficult to push on with writing---authors will enjoy this bit, and it provides a nice bit of insight on some causes of writer's block. Chapparelle's comments to Harriet when she's sitting for her portrait are...I don't know how to explain it, but he's so very insightful and I love how he determines what the sitter is thinking and experiencing just by the expression on their faces. Damn, there's something for everyone in Thrones, Dominations!
Lord and Lady Peter Wimsey are finishing up their honeymoon with a side trip to Paris before arriving back in London to take up married life.
It's at a family dinner party the duchess arranges to introduce Harriet to society that everyone receives the first shock of their marriage, for Harriet fully intends to continue writing. And, horrors, under her maiden name! Surely, she doesn't need to work now that she's married to Peter!?
That same night, King George V dies, and the irresponsible Edward steps into place.
It's all a matter of fitting themselves into this new married life of theirs, with each so careful of the other's thoughts and feelings. The checks provided by a few murders and a disruption in the household are enough to rouse past fears.
Harriet Vane is now Lady Peter Wimsey (and what a treat to read an author who understands the proper way of addressing a lady). Harriet resisted Peter for years under a mistaken impression of why he pursued her.
Lord Peter Wimsey is a second son and, as such, has been free to indulge his interests in rare books, music, wine, and sleuthing. The Foreign Office has had reason to appreciate his suave, unassuming, intelligence. Bunter is his man in all things whether its the dressing of Lord Peter, the pursuit of the criminal mind, or placing his photographic interests at his master's requirements.
The newly established Wimsey household consists of:
Mrs. Trapp has been serving the Denvers for decades and now chooses to be Peter's housekeeper. Meredith is the butler and Bunter's brother. Juliet Mango is a convicted shoplifter with an eye for style and protocol who becomes Harriet's lady's-maid. And an excellent addition to the sleuthing team. Miss Bracy is Harriet's secretary entrusted with typing up her manuscripts and impatiently knitting when there is nothing to type. Ahem.
The rest of the Wimsey family includes:
Gerald is the well-meaning Duke of Denver and, unfortunately, Peter got all the wits. Although, I do rather like that he likes his brother and "was disposed to like his sister-in-law, if only people would let him". Helen is the bitchy, prideful, too-aware-of-her-station duchess, who thinks Harriet is a major mistake.
I did love Harriet's bit of remorse for lashing back at Helen when she thinks that "the Duchess was not an equal opponent in contests such as this."Lord St. George [Jerry] is the son and heir. He's a sweetheart whose father despairs of his ever becoming serious and I'm terrified he'll be killed when World War II breaks out! He does have a heartfelt plea to make of Harriet. The Dowager Duchess, Honoria Lucasta, is a treat-and-a-half. She adores Harriet for her sake and for what she does for Peter. And she's having a ball decorating Peter and Harriet's new house.
The dowager duchess is quite realistic in her assessment of beautiful women:Hope Fanshaw is a photographer and the woman with whom Bunter is in love. She has some interesting observations about how much easier it is to paint a person than it is to photograph them. And she's right. If one were as good a painter as someone like Chapparelle.
"All those wealthy men choosing a wife like a piece of furniture or a fine picture...then having to listen to her at breakfast twenty years later.
Chief Inspector Charles Parker is Peter's brother-in-law as he's married to Lady Mary, Peter's sister. Parker and Peter have been in cahoots with each other forever and is how Mary met him. They have two children.
Uncle Paul Delgardie is Peter's uncle and a confirmed Francophile with a eye for the ladies. He could have sworn Peter would be joining him in a long, luxurious bachelorhood. He serves to introduce the principal couples. The Countess of Severn and Thames is Peter's intimidating godmother, who thinks Harriet is perfect. She wants six copies of any book Harriet writes in which Harriet uses her as a character.
Freddy Arbuthnot is happily married to Rachel with two children. And still has a finger on the City's financial pulse. The Hon. Henry Drummond-Taber is a partner in the publishing firm of Bonne and Newte. Gaston Chapparelle is French and a very insightful portrait painter. Alcibiade, a.k.a., Mr. Hicks, is Harriet's dressmaker and refreshingly honest with her. For some reason, his name sets Rosamund off, but there's no reason given.
Laurence Harwell is inherited wealth and he enjoys spending his money in the theater putting on plays. He also indulges his gorgeous yet cold-hearted wife, Rosamund. Their love for each other is a byword in London. Claude Amery is a poet and playwright whom Rosamund leads on. Mr. Warren is Rosamund's jailbird father with a huge secret. Streaker and Basher, a.k.a., Pettifer and Brown, have come to collect on what they believe Warren owes them. Certainly a different mindset from mine... Sir Jude Shearman is Harwell's perceived bête noire, a fellow theatrical producer.
Mrs. Chanter takes care of the Sugdens' house next door to Rose Cottage in Hampton. Her daughter Rose obliges for the Harwells when they come down to use their house in the country with some sub rosa help from Mary. Miss Gloria Tallant, known in private as Phoebe Sugden, is about to make her stage debut. Larry Porsena, a fellow actor and Phoebe's friend, has his own additions.
The cover is a black and gold silhouette of Walsh's name and two couples having cocktails above a very wide band of gold for the title. Do check out the couples as it gives you a hint of what is to come within the story.
As for the title, I'm not really sure what is meant. It's Thrones, Dominations and the first could refer to the new King Edward (King George V dies at the start) or to where Peter places Harriet in his heart while the second could be a sideways reference to Edward's infatuation with Simpson and the Germans, an oblique reference to one of Peter's names for Harriet, or even the intense emotions that may dominate one's reactions.
Read it and decide or yourself.