…and reviewers are incredulous:
“What is Joan Aiken doing back in Regency land? Having fun – with the most ingenious Impostures and Deceits, not to mention attempted Murders, practiced on a most agreeable heroine. A country dance in the high style twirled to the tune of a proven virtuoso.”
This Kirkus reviewer obviously enjoyed this very un-Aiken frivolity as have quite a few other readers and bloggers and indeed, as does Joan Aiken herself!
A huge fan of Georgette Heyer whose stories were serialised in magazines like Woman’s Journal where her own short stories also appeared, Joan Aiken couldn’t resist having a go at the style herself, and revelling in nonsensical dialogue and period detail, took a leaf or two out of Heyer’s books…
Here the scene is set with our heroine Delphie consoling her clueless Mamma:
“Why do you all scold me so,” she sobbed, “when I only did it for the best?”
“Did what, Mamma? What did you do?”
“Why, went to St. Paul’s to pray for a husband for you, naturally!”
Delphie hardly knew whether to laugh or weep. What a hopeless quest! What a piteous pilgrimage! At least it had not involved Mrs. Carteret in any outrageous, wild expense, but it seemed highly probable that she might have caught her death from wet and exhaustion.
“That was a very kind, thoughtful thing to do,” Delphie said, giving her parent a warm and loving embrace, and then proceeding to whisk off the sodden shawl, “but, you know, I don’t want a husband, I would rather by far remain with you.”
“Of course you want a husband,” said Mrs. Carteret, shivering miserably as the draggled silk was peeled away from her shoulders. “For if you had a good one, we could all live together and he would support us!”
The heroines of most Regency Romances may put up a struggle against the bonds of matrimony and fight for their independence, but when the choice is between marriage or a life of penury – in this case Delphie works as a struggling pianist coaching snobbish and grumpy society maidens – we know where their hearts and hopes really lie…
But Joan Aiken was not known for giving her poor heroines an easy ride, let alone even a happy ending, as many readers have remonstrated: “It’s more of a comedy with an excess of plot…and turns totally Gothic towards the end” or they describe the novel as “a lunatic farrago of wackiness” which is happily also “funny, fluffy and frothy.”
However in this particular case, although they may have been (formally!) married for the entirety of the novel, when the hero, having at last overcome all obstacles, manages to clasp the wretched girl in his arms and beg:
“But do you love me?”
Delphie’s reply is unexpected:
“Oh, good gracious! How can you conceive of such a notion? Why, I came to Chase—walking five miles through a downpour, I may say, because that odious Mordred made off with my carriage-followed you up onto the roof—clambered over I do not know how many obstacles—dragged your lifeless corpse back from the chasm’s brink—all from motives of the calmest—most phlegmatic—neutrality—and altruism—”
The last words came out of her in jerks, for he was shaking her.
“Oh, you little wretch! How often have I not longed to wring your neck! Or at the very least to do this—”
And he set his lips on hers.
Huzzah! You know that’s what you really wanted…
* * * * * * *
The Five Minute Marriage
As reviewed by ALL ABOUT ROMANCE
More Joan Aiken
Regency Romances, and Austen Entertainments and gloriously Gothic adventures for Grown Ups:
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Today, the 4th of January 2019 is, unbelievably, fifteen years since her death, and since I have been, as she asked me: ‘looking after the books’ on her behalf. A sad reflection, of course, but also a good moment to be thankful for all that I have been given.
One of the great pleasures of being Joan Aiken’s daughter and now representative, has been answering letters, requests, enquiries, searching into mysteries, and trying to explain the inexplicable in her books, fielding rumours and random nonsense in the ever expanding farrago of the internet – and sometimes having the extraordinary pleasure of meeting the people whose lives, like mine, she has changed.
One of these, a fan not just of Joan Aiken, but of her alter ego Dido Twite, corresponded with her over a period of five years, and was one of the people I hoped to reach by creating the website, and replying to some of the letters above.
On the page I wrote:
“Joan Aiken loved to get letters from her readers, and as she was a terrific letter writer herself, some of these correspondents turned into good friends. I couldn’t write back to all of you when she died, but I wanted to let you know how much pleasure you gave her, and share some of your best letters here, and also some of the secrets behind the books that a few of you may already have found out for yourselves… “
And one of them, now a writer herself, answered with something I completely understood, and that I wish I could have said myself:
“I never quite managed to explain that her characters assuaged my own loneliness. I never quite managed to explain that I was a writer because of her…”
And then she herself came on a visit from America, and I was able to show her the letters she had written to my mother years before. She wrote:
“I try to tell Lizza what her mother’s books meant to me — mean to me — but I stumble, because even now I’m not sure of the extent of their meaning. There have been other books, of course, that have wrapped themselves around my entire existence. I cloak myself in their characters and wear them around. These books are different from each other, and I am different reading them, living them, but taking them on amounts to the same thing. Like Dido Twite, like Joan Aiken, like the rediscovery of myself on the page at Lizza Aiken’s kitchen table, these books all say the same thing. They say, “You are worthy. Be brave.”
And so, on Joan Aiken’s behalf, here I am…
Visit the website – maybe your letter is there?
A picture and poem from Joan Aiken’s midwinter garden, with wishes for us all.
May your coming year disclose…answers to mysteries, and more, who knows?
Thank you for visiting, your company is much appreciated, do come back next year!
The Hermitage, Petworth, Vernon Gibberd
> > > > > >(@)< < < < < <
In a hilarious ghostly Christmas adventure Mortimer seeks out his Raven ancestors at the Tower of London – and finds more than he bargained for!
At last you can download the TV adventures of Mortimer and Arabel brought to life by a talented puppet team for the BBC, based on original drawings by Sir Quentin Blake, and first shown nearly twenty years ago…some of us have been waiting very patiently indeed…!!!
(I had to give you a quick taster – the blurry screenshots are sadly all my own work…see below for link to the real thing!)
It’s perfect timing for this story full of festive spirit – the ghost of Elizabethan poet Sir Humphrey Burbage is having his usual nightmare before Christmas trying to pay off his long-standing debt to the Duke of Rumbury – before he loses his head…! That’s him at the tower window waiting for his faithful raven, but when Mortimer turns up instead chaos is sure to follow. Can Mortimer and Arabel find his gold and get it to the Bank on time?
Malcolm James and his design team at the BBC pulled out all the stops for this delightfully detailed puppet series, and this very merry Christmas episode – Mortimer and The Bank Ghost – has settings which include a snowy Tower of London, and the half-timbered streets of old Rumbury Town complete with carol singers, plum puddings, turkeys, and decorations to die for…! The script is hilarious, full of ghostly puns and seasonal mayhem. While Granny Jones is trying to make the Jones’ Christmas dinner (with one-hundred year old mincemeat) Mrs Jones is at the Bank trying to make some extra Christmas cash to pay for it all – but in terror of bumping into the Bank Ghost!
Meanwhile Arabel and her friend Chris are trying to stop evil Uncle Perce selling the ghost to a Texas millionaire, and Mortimer as usual isn’t helping at all – although he has fun with the decorations……
But of course everything miraculously ends happily (and ever-after at last for poor Sir Humphrey!) and a very Merry Christmas is had by all – even Granny Jones’s horrible cat Augustus gets away with a turkey leg.
And Mortimer and Arabel get the best surprise of all…something wonderful in their Christmas stockings…but to find out what that is you’ll have to watch it for yourselves!
Apologies for the fuzzy pics… The film itself is perfectly gorgeous, as many will remember, but those puppets don’t stay still for a minute…
See Five Star reviews!
The Bank Ghost is one of four Mortimer & Arabel Stories
now available to download here