feather_ghyll: Book shop store front, text reading 'wear the old coat, buy the new book.' (Book not coat)
[personal profile] feather_ghyll
The Vintage Girl: Hester Browne Quercus 2014

I bought this because I have some sympathy with someone who has a weakness for old collectibles, a tendency I’ve mostly squashed in myself, except when it comes to books. Anyway, I understood some of heroine Evie’s foibles, which helped me through the opening chapters, where she seems to be led too much by her romantic imagination. She works as an assistant to an ambitious, profit-driven antiques dealer, who is understandably exasperated when she buys a lot of stuff at auction for rather soft-hearted reasons, rather than because she thought they’d sell.

But Evie is given a break from the oppressive Max through her (bossy) sister Alice and Alice’s nice boyfriend Fraser’s connections. Basically, Evie is asked to leave London to go up to a castle in the Scottish Borders to see if she can find something really valuable for the most recent heir to sell to keep the estate going.

A trip to a castle? One with the romantic history of the McArthurs? Evie is delighted to go and arrives on the eve of a Valentine’s Day ball, full of Scottish reels and traditions. Her tendency to dream romances of the past comes up against reality – perpetual coldness, a committee to make sure all goes as it should at the ball and the unsettling son of the castle’s owner, who might be gorgeous, but catches Evie daydreaming and teases her about it. He is intended for Catriona, anyway, but Evie has a habit of crushing on unobtainable men. So, although she’s meant to be looking out for valuable furniture, in between the weaponry littering the castle, she follows the trail of an American heiress who came to Kettlesheer at the start of the twentieth century.

If that all seems gossamer light, and it is wish-fulfilment of a sort, I really liked the way what we learned about Evie and Alice’s upbringing explained a lot about them. The romance is nicely developed, with just enough clashing viewpoints and attraction – even if Evie tries to downplay or doesn’t recognise what’s going on – to avoid the pitfalls. It’s also fun to watch Evie mix with a segment of those she thought were the rich and eccentric.

I look forward to reading other books by the authoress, to see if the charm came from the subject or if she’ll manage to recreate it in other stories.

(The books was earlier published in the USA under the title Swept off her Feet.)
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