Fine Feathers is a convoluted tale about a dastardly lord, race horses, a murderous jockey, Molly Marriot, the barrister who loves her, her heiress relative who loves a lowly clerk, and the posting inn where a gang of thieves and murderers run their ring.
Molly Marriot has to play dead on the way to her new life in London because the coachman sent to pick her up intends to murder her for the few possessions she has on her person. When the coach oversets she is left for dead, and the hero of the piece arrives – the very solid and stable constable of the area, Hal, Lord Cordrey. He takes her to the nearby posting inn and asks her what happened. Instead of telling him she decides to play dumb because her new maid, a friend of the would-be murderer's mistress, says she will be safer that way. Molly is escorted to London by Hal, but is also met by Lord Rupert Bardolph – a man she decides may be hiding his illegal deeds in this inn behind his title and angelic face.
Oh I just can't continue! This is the plot up to page 47 and it just gets MORE complicated! I haven't even mentioned the racing horses, the den of thieves at the inn, or Molly's rich relatives.
Needless to say I didn't like this book, but the plot wasn't the major problem for me. No, it wasn't that. It was the stupidity of ALL the characters! Just reciting how Molly doesn't want to tell Hal about who tried to kill her frustrates me! This trend continues as Molly's heiress relative Delphine won't tell her father that she is in love with a clerk, and therefore gets herself betrothed to the dastardly Lord Rupert. From Molly's maid to the jockey's mistress every character just acts dumb.
I really wish I could have enjoyed this book too because the history was fabulous. The author has obviously done her homework on races, racehorses, and interesting tidbits from the era. Heath knows how to integrate them too. Just when I was winding up for the throw against the wall she would reel me in with an interesting aside on marriage law or hunting.
The love story between Hal and Molly is good as well, but there really isn't much time for it amidst the intrigue and silliness.
Bottom Line: Although I liked to love story between to two main characters, and Heath has some very interesting historical bits, Fine Feathers isn't so fine at all.
The Makeshift Marriage
Laura Milbanke, an orphaned poor relation, received a small bequest upon the death of her aunt and employer. She decides to splurge on a holiday to Venice, a city she has always admired and longed to see, before taking up her next post. Laura has a wonderful time touring the city, and we tour it along with her. Heath does a very good job describing Venice, making it come alive without overburdening us with Tour Guide Detail.
Laura's holiday would be perfect, if it weren't for two men who are cutting up her peace. The first is Sir Nicholas Grenville, at whose table she is always placed, as they are the only two Britons at the hotel. They rub each other the wrong way, and usually wind up eating their meals in silence, though she can't help noticing how very attractive he is. The second man is an Austrian Hussar, Baron von Marienfeld, who shows a decided preference for Laura. But Laura senses menace from him and does her best to avoid him.
The Baron assaults Laura; Nicholas rescues her and winds up being challenged to a duel. The Baron has killed ten men in duels already, and Laura realizes that this was his aim all along – to use her to get to Nicholas. Laura and Nicholas decide to spend the day before the duel together, touring the city, talking, falling in love.
Nicholas is gravely injured in the duel, and fearing he will die, he marries Laura, so she will be provided for and no longer has to be a companion. He survives, but insists on removing to England though his health is very precarious.
Up until now, this has been a delightful novel. The setting was different and enjoyable, the characters were interesting and their actions unexpected. But once we get to England, we also return to the land of Regency Clichés. There are misunderstandings large and small, a scheming ex-fiancé, an over-the-top villain… It was very disappointing. I hung in there, for I so enjoyed the first half, but it was difficult, and the ending was wrapped up far too quickly with many threads left to dangle.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, December 29, 2003