THE POOR RELATION
Six Book Series
Original Print Publication starting 2011
By: M. C. Beaton writing as Marion Chesney
All Narrated by: Davina Porter
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (via consumer link at DOWNPOUR)
Originally recorded 2012 – reissued 2016
All books either borrowed from a state library or purchased.
Lady Fortescue Steps Out
The Poor Relation, Book 1
Release date: 05-01-12
Length: 4 hrs and 48 mins
Life is not easy for the poor relations of England’s upper crust, but fate and clever schemes bring them together. Lady Fortescue and Colonel Sandhurst hatch a plan: What if they were to transform her decrepit Bond Street home into a posh hotel, offering their guests the pleasure of being waited upon by nobility? With the help of other down-and-out aristocrats, they do just that, and London’s newest hotel, The Poor Relation, is born.
The establishment is an immediate hit with London’s most illustrious citizens, save the Duke of Rowcester, Lady Fortescue’s nephew. Rowcester believes that his aunt’s entry into the trade will denigrate their family name and is determined to shut the hotel down – until he meets Miss Harriett James, the lovely young woman who accepts Lady Fortescue’s offer to become The Poor Relation’s chef after the death of her parents and the loss of her fortune. Rowcester moves into The Poor Relation for the season – ostensibly to keep an eye on his aunt’s business. https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Lady-Fortescue-Steps-Out-Audiobook/B007X4JRCS/ref=a_series_c2_1_saTtl?ie=UTF8&pf_rd_r=QQSMAM9RTPYHQK2D0JVP&pf_rd_m=A2ZO8JX97D5MN9&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i=series-detail&pf_rd_p=1374482202&pf_rd_s=center-2
Miss Tonks Turns to Crime
The Poor Relation, Book 2
Length: 4 hrs and 47 mins
Release date: 05-01-12
The poor relations, those genteel paupers of society who live on little more than their dignity, have banded together and started The Poor Relation hotel, hoping to be bought out by their embarrassed relations – but as the hotel prospered, they began to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Now once more they are in need of funds. To stoop to crime in their days of poverty was one thing, but to turn to it again when they have enjoyed a certain amount of success is quite another. But they all agree: the hotel must go on.
And so poor, faded Miss Tonks has been persuaded to steal something valuable enough from her rich sister to set the poor relations on their feet. They all have their doubts about Miss Tonks’ chances for success, but the shy spinster has more than a few surprises in store. Flirtations and feelings abound amid the conspiring group.
Mrs. Budley Falls from Grace:
The Poor Relation, Book 3
Length: 5 hrs and 9 mins
Release Date: 06-01-12
Eliza Budley is a beautiful widow whose husband gambled away his fortune. Lady Fortescue reminds the others that, to be fair, Mrs. Budley has no relatives on whom she can call. Gentle Mrs. Budley thinks she has escaped her fate until Sir Philip comes up with a plan: He has heard that the elderly Marquess of Peterhouse is senile, a widower, extremely rich, and unlikely to remember whether Mrs. Budley is a relative or not. So off Mrs. Budley goes to the bleak castle where the marquess turns out to be not so old, hardly senile, and, in fact, quite handsome. The loveable characters from the Poor Relation Hotel return in this sparkling and adventurous Regency from Marion Chesney.
Sir Philip’s Folly:
The Poor Relation, Book 4
Length: 4 hrs and 51 mins
Release Date: 06-01-12
Just when everything at the Poor Relation Hotel seems to be running smoothly, Sir Philip brings in another poor relation, Mrs. Budge. When Sir Philip presents his paramour, Lady Fortescue swears great oaths and says the woman is probably related to half the costermongers in London and certainly does not possess one rich relative. Mrs. Budge does nothing but eat all day and refuses to do any work around the hotel. Worst of all, Miss Tonks seems to be taking the romance between Sir Philip and Mrs. Budge quite hard.
In the middle of all this commotion, a certain Lady Carruthers and her daughter Arabella come to stay at the hotel. Lady Carruthers is a widow trying to pass herself off as much younger than she actually is. To this end she dresses poor Arabella, who is all of 19, as a young schoolgirl and refuses to bring her out. It is up to the poor relations to deal with the lazy Mrs. Budge, find Arabella a husband, and trounce her terrible mother!
Colonel Sandhurst to the Rescue:
The Poor Relation, Book 5
Length: 4 hrs and 50 mins
Release Date: 07-01-12
Owing to an unfortunate wager made by Sir Philip, the poor relations are once again scrounging around for a plan for solvency. This time it is Colonel Sandhurst to the rescue. After happening on Sir Randolph’s lovely daughter Frederica, who is running away to escape an awful marriage to Lord Bewley, the Colonel devises a plan to force Sir Randolph to settle his bill for six month’s stay and to save Frederica from her fate. The clever plan is thwarted when Lord Bewley shows up at the drop point instead of Sir Randolph. The poor relations must make a deal with Lord Bewley in order to get their money and stay out of jail, an arrangement that turns cases of mistaken identity into cases of romance.
Back in Society: A Regency Romance:
The Poor Relation, Book 6
Length: 4 hrs and 50 mins
Release Date: 07-01-12
Life is finally looking up for the poor relations. The Prince of Wales’ coat of arms gleams over the hotel entrance. All but one of the rooms are filled by the open-handed Prince Hugo and his entourage. The owners have taken on a new partner, Mr. Jason Davy, a popular actor. Even curmudgeonly Sir Philip hasn’t uttered anything loathsome for days. They have finally reached a position comfortable enough to allow them to consider offers to buy the hotel.
The poor relations’ hard-earned success, however, is in stark contrast to the plight of their latest guest, Lady Jane Fremney. The slight, beautiful youngest daughter of the Earl of Durby has been cast out of her family for refusing to marry the man her father has chosen. Lonely and bankrupt, Lady Jane has decided to commit suicide. But when Miss Tonks uncovers her plans, the poor relations go into action again to try to rescue Lady Jane from suicide, her father, and her intended.
This series has excellent underpinnings of good, solid, and humorous, story-telling. I loved escaping into the stories.
M.C. Beaton writes the Agatha Raisin series and offers the same brand of snarky with a lesson familiar from those books and the TV Show.
Fiction based in the British Regency Period (here 1810 to 1820 according to the author’s website) often portrays the entire “Ton” (or as we might say on this side of The Pond, “high-society”) as people who cared more for the appearance of propriety and high moral standards than about the actuality of their society.
The story in Regency fiction often comes from a woman being poorly used or mistreated and the subsequent the threat of ruination. The woman is ruined but the man suffers few ill-consequences unless he is killed in a duel or has to go to the continent for a while.
Other stories depend on financial ruin, either as a result of poor investment, by having been cheated out of an inheritance, or, at least in fiction, through drink and gambling. Most female characters in regency fiction have no ability to earn a living other than as a governess or as a companion. Most female characters, unless somehow settled legally to be provided for, were entirely dependent on male relatives finding them a place.
In this series both men and women are led to the brink of ruin in the financial, rather than the moral, sense. A group of financially ruined individuals come together and pool their resources to open a hotel, The Poor Relation, in the home of one member, Lady Fortescue, who has managed to hang onto her house. Through doing so, they assume their rich relations will be so appalled by them having gone “into trade” that they will buy them out.
Of course, they get and lose money throughout the series; they seem to have no concept of fiscal management. Also they have a bad egg among them in Sir Phillip. He’s been sponging off of, and robbing, his relatives for a long time. Although he tries to help, a lifetime of dishonesty and scheming often loses more money than he makes. But what the characters gain is self-esteem, respect, family and love.
With the personal growth the story shows not just women being rescued or having their affairs handled. Both sexes share the perils and the labor. They suffer the problems of having gone into trade, and garner the rewards of an honest day’s work as well. It is like a coming-of-age series for Regency society.
Audible lists the book as “simmering;” I think there are a few sexy scenes but nothing explicit. There is an untied loose-end regarding jealousy and a dangerous event I did not feel was resolved.
I started listening to the series because I missed hearing Davina Porter’s voice. She is probably my favorite female narrator and narrates the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. She does the same great job here with a voice that just pleases my soul — can a voice be velvety, raspy and effervescent at the same time? Hers is.
I consumed these shorter-format audiobooks like candy. If you love Regency, Austen or Davina Porter these are a must.