Book Review for “The Fair Miss Fortune” by D.E. Stevenson.
Summary: “The village of Dingleford is all aquiver with the arrival of lovely young Miss Fortune with plans to open a tea house. Captain Charles Weatherby, just back from India, has “no use for bright little creatures no matter how long their eyelashes might be,” but his perspective shifts when they actually meet (much to his mother’s secret delight). The interest of Harold Prestcott, perpetual doormat to a smothering mother, is also piqued, much to her bitter chagrin. And when Miss Fortune’s sister arrives in the village, soon pursued by an irate Frenchman, confusions bloom, passions flare, and hilarity reigns, all in classic D.E. Stevenson style.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary/Historical, England – Dingleford (fictional); Other Categories: Novel, Vintage/Historical, Romance, Humor.
First, I’ve decided to call this Historical Fiction because although it was written in 1939 as contemporary fiction, it was rejected by Stevenson’s publisher, and it only was finally first published in 2011. I’m also in a touch of another dilemma because I’m not sure if I should count this as my first HF novel for 2022, or my 39th one for 2021. On Goodreads it will count to my 2021 reads, that for sure; however, this is most definitely my first book review for a novel published in 2022, so when it comes to my “best of” list, it should qualify for consideration! But you know what, whatever way you slice it, this is a novel that one publisher made a HUGE mistake about, when they turned it down when it was written.
You see, this is truly a delightful novel in every way, shape, and form. First of all, the story is quaint and adorable. A young woman and her nannie move to a small village to start a tea shop, and if all goes well, she hopes that her sister will move out of London to join her in her venture. But when the sister shows up early, the mischief begins, because Jane and Joan are identical twins! Yes, yes… I know, the trope is a bit silly, but the truth is, identical twins’ stories can be lots of fun. Plus, of all the identical twins I’ve known, I can promise you that if they’re physically very much alike, in the right situations, they could easily have passed for each other, so the premise isn’t at all unlikely.
In this book, we get to know Jane a bit more than Joan to begin with. But when Joan shows up, we soon realize that – much like in real life – while they might look like mirror images, their personalities are quite different. Plus, Stevenson includes a bit where one man thinks he’s meeting with one sister, but it is actually the other one, and after that meeting, he thinks he’s fallen out of love with her! I can tell you for a fact that my friend who is married to an identical twin, never had any problem with telling them apart – he knew which one he was attracted to, even back when their own family members had a hard time differentiating between them! Furthermore, Stevenson does an excellent job in giving each girl their own voice, with little quirks and attitudes, even though their faces are indistinguishable. I also loved how Stevenson portrayed all the secondary characters, the girls’ Nannie in particular, as well as the two men, and their respective mothers. All this together brought a truly bright story into excellent focus and we get a sweet ensemble, which is all set up for a whole lot of fun.
Finally, I also enjoyed how Stevenson drew a whole village for us with her descriptions of the settings. While nothing here is overly poetic, you can easily see in your mind’s eye the styles of the buildings, as well as the surrounds, and how each place melds into the location. In fact, Stevenson does such a wonderful job with drawing us a whole community, that now I’m interested in reading more of her books, especially the ones about village life in rural England (unfortunately, my TBR list is so full this month, I’m going to have to put the other novel that Dean Street Press sent me on hold for a bit).
Most importantly, Stevenson had me laughing out loud at the antics of her characters, which endeared me to them all even more. Mind you, I was a bit surprised that some of the less pleasant characters made such small appearances, but from reading her self-written biography, I understand that she didn’t like to write those types of characters, and that’s why they were minimized. I forgive her for that, and I can therefore wholeheartedly recommend this lovely novel, even for people like me who don’t usually read romantic books, and I’m going to give it a full 5/5 stars! (What a pleasant way to start the year, right?)
Dean Street Press re-released “Fair Miss Fortune” by D.E. Stevenson on January 3, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel.
This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (Either #39 for 2021, because I finished reading it in late December, or #1 for 2022 because I’m publishing this review now), New Release Challenge (#1).