The Arrival of Lady Suthmeer is a historical romp, with the light-hearted tone intruded on by brief bits of sexual importuning and violence. Lavinia juggles her passionate desire for the married Lady Suthmeer, the unwanted interest of Lord Suthmeer, the sad necessity for a woman to marry, and the awkward surprise that her betrothed expects to defend her reputation. The solution includes some unexpected twists and a very historically accurate acceptance of open relationships (at least, open when it comes to having a same-sex lover on the side) that may not fit some readers’ definitions of “happily ever after.”
The subtitle proclaims the work “a novella”, but it’s quite short--much more in novelette territory by word-count. It’s competently written, although I kept wishing for a more solid sense of time and place. Place is clearly England, but none of the spaces in which the story plays out feel anchored by concrete details, and the protagonist’s domestic arrangements are implausible for her apparent class and status. I still have no idea when the story is supposed to be taking place. From the passing details, it could be anywhere in the 18th or 19th centuries. (At first I thought the ca. 1790 cover image gave us a clue, but the back cover image is more 1870s so who knows?) Erotic content dominates the first part of the story and the plot revolves entirely around sorting out the various interpersonal relationships.
So don’t go into this looking for a solidly historically grounded story, or for eloquent prose, but it’s entertaining enough for an afternoon’s reading.