Currently Reading - Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton


Started reading this on Tuesday afternoon before my shift. I borrowed it from my mother’s collection although I’m fairly sure this copy is previously unread, and I’ve no clue by what path it ended up there. I think I would not otherwise have picked this book up to read, but then broadening my horizons is precisely why I am interspersing her books into my reading.

If I wanted to have fun with genre labelling, I might call this a paranormal romance. But I think this book both pre-dates and belongs to a different tradition than most books which currently bear the paranormal romance label. From the buzz I looked up, it seems what I can expect from this book might best be described as an ultra-cosy mystery. With romance. This story is thick with the scent of romance being laid out, and I’m waiting to see if I will love or hate that.

At the moment I’m only at the start of Chapter 3, 34 pages into this 290 page novel.

What I’m dreading: this is a ghost aunt mystery series set in Britain but written by a US author. I’m worried it is going to romanticise imperial England, as for example in the love story told in the prologue.

"In the first gray light of dawn she saw the ship, the great four-master bearing spices and gold and the treasure of her heart.["]

Discomfiting having this act of looting drawn so casually into a tale of romanticism, like it’s just a neutral or good thing that happens. I’m not sure if there was a second specific moment that further aroused my worry, but the overall tone so far seems to be idealising England as embodying a sort of pastoral innocence against the City that is America.

The other thing I dread is how exactly this might pan out as a romance, what tropes will be deployed. That’s likely to have a very strong influence on whether I am happy with the outcome of this book, or angry.

For the beginning there is very much a sense of the story being laid out like cards, or a stage being set. We have Emma Porter, senior in a computing company who is taking bafflingly[1] well being left by her open-relationship partner of 15 years for a younger woman.

[1] Everyone in her life is baffled, and so is she.

We have Derek Harris, widower with a couple of kids who happens to fit the description Emma briefly daydreamed about, and who is set to engage in prophecy-related restoration work at home of the titular duke. AND whose son apparently has been wearing himself out doing the housekeeper’s work for years to protect his father and keep the nagging sister-in-law at bay, who is fixated on the restoration as promising a supernatural salvation that I would say is sure to bring bitter disappointment except the whole series is premised on ghost aunt so maybe it will happen.

And their paths are surely set to intersect, as Emma is redirected to this same location, drawn from the prologue, by elderly twin sisters whose synchronous speech and manner speaks so much of an author giggling to herself that I had to look up online and confirm they are regulars, these Pym sisters.

That’s where I’m up to. Mostly I’m nervous to continue reading rather than excited; there’s so much potential for this to proceed on paths I detest that the anticipation of Aunt Dimity and The Duke failing me dominates my attitude toward the book so far.