Level headed Elinor Rockdale is just on her way to another placement as governess to a rambunctious little boy when she mistakenly steps into the wrong carriage. The man waiting when she alights makes an unbelievable proposal: marry his drunken cousin and he'll free her from her uncomfortable lifestyle. Of course, she refuses. This is madness! But when news arrives that the husband-to-be has only moments to live, Ned Carlyon persuades Elinor against her better judgement to tie the knot.
Now a widow, there's only the matter of selling the house and dotting some i's with the help of Carlyon and she's a free and independent woman. Until a few nights in the old house reveal that her husband might have been up to more than just drinking late at night.
I was hooked from the get-go with The Reluctant Widow. It's an interesting story with a strange turn of events. Elinor is just my kind of heroine. She's practical, takes everything that comes at her in stride, and always has a smart remark. Her interactions with Carlyon are priceless. I loved their banter. He's one cool cucumber. And although she protests too much, you just know she's loving this adventure.
There's a set of supporting characters who keep the story moving and add a lot of entertainment value. Carlyon's brother Nicky is a teenager who inadvertently finds trouble everywhere, even 'cousin' Elinor's house. His dog Bouncer has behavioural problems which include 'guarding' people by boxing them into rooms. And Elinor's old governess, Miss Beccles, thinks Carlyon can do no wrong.
The Reluctant Widow is a little bit of mystery, a little bit of farce but a fully, fun, fast read. This is probably my favorite Heyer so far.