Comment: Some readers I know who don't tend to read much historical romances have enjoyed this one quite a lot, and upon seeing this book with a discount at a book fair years ago, I decided to get it but, obviously, only now did I pick it to read.
In this story we meet Sophy, the only child of Sir Horace, a diplomat who has been in many countries and who is about to leave for another but he decides to leave his daughter with his sister mrs Ombersley, promising she won't be troubled. The thing is, Sophy is used to get her own way, she is confident and has opinions and a heart of gold, wanting to help everyone because she knows how to think on her feet. It is only natural others might not agree, for they have not had the same experiences and exposure to different cultures and everyone knows the British society is still quite rigid. But will such a sunny and heartwarming personality as Sophy's be deterred in the face of her family's sometimes dumbfounded expressions? Could it be Sophy will manage to save them all from their problems?
If one reads this as a fun adventure featuring a larger than life character and sees all dialogue as the epitome of wit and irony, then this is a wonderful book. I had a great fun reading this novel and finished with the sense of having spent a great time with wonderfully depicted characters. I was actually a little surprised by how much I liked it because this is the 6th book by the author I try and I wasn't overly impressed with all the others. I think I appreciated this one even more because the story is engaging and also because I read this one in Portuguese...it certainly helps when it comes to older titles, where the language isn't as easy to follow if it's not our own, as English isn't mine.
As a matter of fact, giving a quick glance at what I wrote about the other novels, the more old fashioned writing style didn't always feel as comprehensive for me except in Sylvester, which I loved, but the story also made me more interested in focusing on it. I suppose a re-read with different eyes would help but I have no time and there are still other books by this author I'd try new instead of re-reading known ones...
Basically, Sophy is a young woman who, despite being a single child and having had the luck of money and privilege, has developed such a loving personality making her unique and caring for those she deems as in need of her help. She is a true schemer, quite aware of what's what but she still gives everyone a smile, an apparent calm in the face of adversity and she doesn't let anyone cause her fear or doubt. She is confident in her own self and in what she can do but she doesn't take for granted she will succeed in whatever she wants, she thinks things through at the best of her possibilities and she acts with good heart...how not to like her or to want to have her self esteem?
I can see how the author has created such a wonderful heroine. I can also imagine how such a person in real life would be looked upon with trust by those she helps and who see her for her qualities but how others might envy her and want to cause her to look bad too. In a way, that is how the plot of this book develops, we have Sophy as main character and how her actions to help others are seen as positive by those who like her but as inopportune and vain by those who feel inferior somehow.
The secondary characters, though, seem to be playing a part in the drama instead of being realistic people. It really felt as if this could easily be a play in a theater, where the characters exaggerate their performance for the sake of the audience and there are a few characters who really seem to be there just to allow Sophy to shine even more or to be a contrast to her independent and confident ways. I know this was done on purpose and there are a few scenes I feel were brilliantly acted upon but it's also true there were others that feel very embellished.
There's a hint of romance but this is not the focus and the author, having written in the 50s, certainly used tactics to allow the reader to get their own conclusions on things. It is obvious on the last page that Sophy found love but if we are to add the clues to reach that conclusion, they are quite vague and subdued and it might even seem incomprehensible how they got to that stage when nothing during the book seemed to indicate that, but it's just the style of writing. It can be sen as even more romantic especially because it isn't noticeable.