THE PEACOCK'S FEATHER by Sarah Woodhouse


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Another historical by Woodhouse, set like her last (A Season of Mists, 1984) around 1800, featuring a few characters from past outings and a few new faces, but starring a ""remote and inconvenient old house"" in Suffolk called Ramillies. It is to this tumble-down mansion that the ""heroic-looking"" Jardine Savage repairs. He's a Heathcliff type, late of Jamaica, where his uncle used him badly, stealing the Helen's Mount sugar plantation out from under him. Still, Jaw remains a gentle soul, willing to take in a half-caste orphaned infant; befriending an eccentric, lovelorn doctor, Alex French; and set on improving the lot of cottagers in a nearby settlement known as Diddler's. For his plans, he gets in trouble with local gentry and is forced to fight a duel over the reputation of Lizzie Rayner, whose family once owned Ramillies. She's an Elizabeth Bennett sort--smart, sharp-tongued, a portrait painter acclaimed in London but barely tolerated in Suffolk due to her unseemly ways. At first, she and Jury don't get on well; but when he's charged with the murder of her ex-fianc‚, Lizzie supports him--which is reason enough for Jury to give Ramillies back to her through marriage upon his exoneration. Several great English novels echo here, but very dimly, and Woodhouse's characters remain limp and dull. Even for romantic-minded Anglophiles this is hardly a must read.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's